Monday, 26 April 2021

Isle of Wight

Last week I was blessed in that I was able to close my business for a week, pack a case, stick my little old Mum in the car and head over to the Isle of Wight for a week. She's been isolating pretty much for the past year and I only travel from home to work and back again (like most people around the world during these crazy times) so when the opportunity arose to stare at 4 new walls instead of our own, I took it and ran with it. 

I had originally had a trip booked there at another property; I booked it before the very first lock down in 2020 (because of the nature of my business in that I can take bookings up to 2 years in advance, I have to work out holidays in advance too). At one point I thought I was going to have to cancel, however, when Boris announced he was opening up self catering properties again on the 12th April my little heart sang, for I'd book our place from the 17th for 7 nights. What I hadn't expected was for the property I'd already booked to then cancel on me the day after he announced things were opening back up. I'd like to say this was down to an unforeseen issue, however, the very next day they had the property back on the holiday sites at 3 times - that's THREE times, the amount I had paid; I think they saw an opportunity and took it. The worst part was the company I'd booked it through tried to charge me a fee for it being cancelled - they didn't get a penny out of me and I got them (in the end) to return my original booking fee too. I would have named-and-shamed them, however, I checked the day I travelled over to see if they'd been able to rent it out and it was still vacant. Maybe karma does exist. Anyway, I then had to find somewhere to stay and knew I'd be up against it as a lot of people were then also looking for holiday properties, wanting to get away from it all. As I had a ferry booking from the original trip (which wasn't the cheapest I could have got) I didn't want to lose money so my main option was to look for somewhere on the Island. I'm quite fussy when looking; I don't like properties that are just a house in the middle of a housing estate. I prefer a detached property and I like to have a private garden (where possible) or at least an outdoor space I can hide away in if I have to share it with others. Because of booking so late I knew I'd probably have to take whatever was on offer, and for the most part all I could find were properties way out of my price range, or a mid terrace house on  a main road. Then, on the very last page there was this property - an old forge -  that whilst not perfect (it has the owners property directly opposite across a small forecourt) was perfectly suitable to give us a base to explore from. It was also a really good price, so I booked it there-and-then. I am so very glad that I did.

It's not the biggest place, although having said that the rooms are of a really decent size but it offered all we needed. Whilst the owners are just across the forecourt they kept to themselves, yet when we did run into each other were super friendly and nothing was too much trouble for them ( I say them, however, we only saw the gentleman all week, but if the lady who runs it with him is half as lovely as he was then she will have been a super person too). The back of the property though had a lovely private, fenced in courtyard area, and beyond that were 5 acres of grounds that we were free to explore as we wished (and explore I did). I went to bed each night amazed at how dark it was - there is no light pollution there - and awoke each morning to the sound of multiple birds singing (the blackbird on the wall outside at 5am for 2 consecutive mornings was a little bit of a downer but it's such a comfortable place to be I soon nodded back off to sleep again. The lack of light makes it a perfect place for those of you who might want to take some night sky photographs. The amount of birds and red squirrels flitting about make it a great place for those of you who like to take pics of birds/wildlife. Everyday there were Blue, Great, Coal and Long Tailed tits; Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Jays, Jack Daws, Pigeons (there are always pigeons as well as Crows) Wrens, Blackbird, Ducks, Sparrows, Dunnocks and on  occasion the odd Heron. Overhead Buzzards, Kestrals, Harriers and Red Kites were seen regularly.

Not a lot was open on the Island - including shops - and it appears that the recent events of the past year have affected a lot of businesses, so if you can get over there this year, do try to and give the remaining shops a little hope, but in a way being closed made it easier for us, as the whole point of getting away was to relax and unwind; had everything been open we'd have up at the crack of dawn and swanning here, there and everywhere each day. Instead we sat among nature (me up the top of the grounds, my Mum closer to the property) and read, watched the wildlife and allowed the world to just pass us by. I truly believe even the most stressed of people would be able to unwind and relax at the forge. 



Sunday, 4 April 2021

Think it's dead

In 55 years of home ownership, my Mum has only ever made 1 insurance claim - almost 30 years ago when all the sheds/garages where we live got broken into (ours included) and all the tools her and Dad had built up over the years got stolen - oddly they left behind bikes and things, so her claim was minimal but needed to replace the lost tools. My Dad had not long died either so all DIY was down to Mum. 
Aside from the 3 car claims I've had to make - none of which were my fault; first was a guy who didn't stop at a T junction, came across 3 lanes of traffic and smashed into the side of my car (writing it off). The 2nd was some little scrote one new years eve who broke into my car and tried to hot wire it; when he couldn't get it started he trashed it; writing it off. The 3rd was the 40 ton uninsured foreign lorry driver who almost wrote me off at the same time as destroying my car, when he decided to ram me into the hard shoulder on the motorway. All 3 ended up costing me - and people wonder why I'm so angry as a person! 
Anyway, today, like a total dick I wrote off my macbook. To say I'm gutted would be an understatement. I have a shitty little windows laptop I can use that was given to me when I needed publisher (the only downside to apple is not having publisher) which is a bonus or I'd only have my phone and I am still old school. I'd rather use a computer than my phone. I never have a drink anywhere near computer, or phone equipment but today put my can on the table whilst sorting some bits out, turned around, caught the can and it hit the keyboard of the macbook, spreading brown liquid over the whole thing. All 330 ml ended up on the keyboard. Straight away I turned it upside/down to shake out as much as I could. I then dowsed it in kitchen roll to mop up what I could, before opening it right out, putting it in the garden in the sun upside/down to let any more bits I'd missed drip out. I was so hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they were made with some kind of protection in case such things happen - I cannot be the only person on the planet to have done it? 4 hours later it was obvious it was beyond help. It will power up, showing the light to say it's taking power, but it won't switch on, no matter what I try, so I found myself with a dilemma. I accept I was a fucking idiot, live without it - it's fully backed up, and I do have a mac mini I can use, albeit I have to sit upstairs like billy no mates to use that, and I have the windows if I need one, or, I could make a claim on the insurance; that is, after all, what we've been paying for all these years. 
I decided to do it online via their own claim form; I figured with it being Easter there was unlikely to be anyone answering the phones, and the info on their website said to let them know as soon as. The insurance is in Mum's name, but covers anyone living here, and as she's not the best with computers and her eyes are not really that good, she nominated that I fill the form in too, telling me what to say (she wasn't very nice about me at one point) and signing what needed to be signed (not easy when she can't see and had to do it with a mouse!!). She gave them my number if they need to speak to anyone. 
The form got filled in as best I could; questions asking me what year it was made, what memory it has and how many gb it is were things I couldn't answer as all that info is on the laptop which isn't working for me to access the answers; asking for a receipt to prove when I bought it was also something I couldn't do; I think I got it 6, maybe 8 years ago. I don't keep receipts that long as usually a shop will only give you a refund or replacement within a set time. I do know where I bought it, so have told them where it was bought and said the company may have a record of it, although I would think that's pretty doubtful, so I've really not been able to give them much at all. Then at the end it asked if she (me) would be willing to record a video verifying the information given as being a true statement of facts. I looked at Mum; hair sticking out everywhere, in her PJ's, then looked at myself in my own PJ's with my hair stuck to my head because I've not showered for 2 days, both of us looking as rough as we've been feeling, so I clicked the "no" option. Now, I'm wondering if that was the right thing to do.? 
I filled in the form as requested, gave the details of what happened, took photos (asking to show damage which I wasn't able to do as damage is on the inside, but I took a photo of it all nice and shiny where I'd wiped it all over). They had also asked for a video of the damage but the fact a photo couldn't show it (I'm not prepared to open up the inside of it; partly because I've not a clue what to do, mainly because I'm pretty sure doing that would invalidate any claim straight away) I said I wasn't prepared to share a video of that either; pointless when it would show nothing more than the photo. However, since submitting it without either video I am thinking I did the wrong thing. The video could have shown me trying to switch it on to prove it's not turning on - I'm guessing the person who it goes to, to be fixed, will be able to sort that out, and are they really going to be bothered about us recording a declaration in our PJ's.
Pretty sure my ignorance of how these things work, and being so useless when it comes to filling in forms (I really am shit at such things) will find them refusing the claim, and I have to go buy me a lottery ticket to be able to replace it. 
I am so angry at myself, for being so bloody clumsy and stupid. 
How people who make claims all the time is beyond me (Mum's brother creature will claim for anything; he even deliberately burned a whole in his carpet once because he couldn't be bothered to pay for a new one, and he is not short of money - that was back in the 80's and whether he still does it now I couldn't say as we've not had anything to do with him in nearly 3 decades, however, he was that kind of person so I'm pretty sure he still does).
It all might before nothing though as I've just received an email from a Nigerian cousin I didn't know I had who has several million pounds waiting for me. Hurrah!! 

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Are you ok?

Not words I ever hear; I think because of the type of person I am people just assume I'm good and never bother to ask, which is fine. If I had something worrying me I'd talk to someone about it, so it was really weird when this morning someone said "ooh, are you ok? Should we be worried?" This was only because at 4am I had my first ever proper nose bleed - not a nice experience. I've had my nose bleed before but usually because I've scratched inside (you know how you often get an itch inside you can't get to) or because I've caught my nose stud and pushed it into the skin but this was a proper "oh my goodness, there's blood pouring from my nose" bleed. Added to the fact I've been struggling the past couple of days with a tummy issue (down to a very hot chilli I had, that I also decided to add extra chilli sauce to - it was so hot it made my nose run) and I've been getting some pretty painful headaches, only ever in the middle of the night though. they are weird, because they wake me up, the pain is splitting and feels as though my eyes are being pushed from behind with red hot needles. I wake up, think "bloody hell, another one" roll over and go back to sleep. When I wake next (I usually wake 3/4/5 times a night) the headache has gone, however, when I finally get up to start the day I do feel very foggy headed and it takes me a couple of hours to be able to function. Not good when I am running a business. 

So, this mornings nose bleed I think was to do with a combination of a lot of things, hasn't worried me but it worried someone else enough to ask if I was ok, which I am. Like everyone right now I'm dealing with living in the weirdest of times. It's hard enough to run a small business at the best of times, but during a lock down, in the midst of a pandemic, it's a little different to what I have spent 30 plus years getting used to. I'm extremely grateful that my business is surviving, however, I don't mind admitting I am struggling working in such a different way. Because we can only take orders via the phone or online, I'm spending more time doing paperwork. When a customer can come in they tell me what they want, wait for me to make it, and take it away. Not being able to do that they call ahead of time, or place their order online. I then have to copy those orders onto the ordering system we use. Not a biggy, but it takes time. In between doing that the phone may ring, or a customer will turn up to collect their order and will be banging on the door for me to hurry because it's raining; in 'normal' times they would be in the dry and wait patiently. This kind of adds to my stress levels a little, especially if it's early and I'm still not fully awake. Then my driver will start asking questions, questions he could answer himself but it's just easier to ask. My business partner will call/email and ask me to do something and it usually has to be done yesterday - if he's going to turn up he'll always do so just as I sit down to eat my lunch!! They will phone me with the most ridiculous questions when they are out delivering and expect me to answer their query and fix it for them straight away, when I'm in a shop and not out on the road with them, and often I'm in the middle of dealing with a customer, or another query. I have no problem helping anyone, or answering a question if I know the answer, but I don't know them all, and most are things they can look at (look up) for themselves beforehand. Then there is social media. A great tool for businesses but more fannying around on a computer sorting posts out. I'm a florist; if I wanted a job working with computers, or doing accounts, I would have chosen that profession. Customers will no longer pick up the phone to ask a question they'll use social media to send a message and 99% of the time they expect an immediate reply. I have better things to be doing with my day than being logged onto a computer all day just waiting around. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining that they may be wanting to place an order with me, but again they will ask me questions that the answers can be found to by popping onto the shops website. Just this morning I've had a query from someone who was actually on the website looking at one page, asking me questions about something that was there, plain for her to see, on another page, or they will message and say "I really like so-and-so on your site, can you tell me how much?" The price for every single item on there is with the picture, highlighted in bright pink. You cannot miss it, and because they are on the website looking and messaging me whilst there, they are expecting an immediate response. We live in a world where everything has to be instant. I also do all the ordering of the flowers, and because of the world now the way I order has changed. It's really hard to get my head around doing it a completely different way when I've done it the same way for 35 years. 

At this time of year my shop is often colder inside than it it outside because it get's cold during the freezing temps overnight and where there is so much water in the place and I don't get any light in the building now as they have built flats opposite the shop, it stays cool. I can't open the door to draw any air through as the law states I have to keep the door locked, so I'm working in cold, damp conditions all day - which I have no problem with. I enjoy the cold, and love this time of year. On days like today where I will be doing mostly paperwork and social media stuff I can shut the office door and pop a little fan heater on just to take the chill off. I don't leave it on for long though. 

Then I go home, to the house I live in with my aging Mum, who is always cold so has the heating cranked up to 100 degrees. I love her dearly, would not swap her for the world but she can be hard work (and she will admit to it too). She's a very independant woman who has worked bloody hard in her life, a life that has not treated her well. My Dad worked long hours and spent a lot of time working away from home so she pretty much raised my brother and I single handedly. She had no problems climbing up onto roofs to fix a leak. She laid all the carpet in the house and pretty much did all the decorating when I was growing up. Now though her body is older so she has to think about things a little more. Her eyesight is not good, and has been made even worse by some bad surgery she had this time last year - she's just had her 3rd op because of the cock-up and she's stuck indoors because of lock down, so she's finding it a struggle. Eery day she would go into town and have a wander round, just to get out of the house. She hates being stuck indoors. We go for walks on occasions but there are so many other  people also out walking you spend most of your time stepping into the road to avoid them so it's really not a pleasant experience so she stays home. Because of her eyesight she can't see to do anything; she loved making cards and painting, so she spends most of her days pottering about indoors or listening to an audio book; other than her regular calls with my Grandad (who winds her up) and chatting with her bestie who calls a couple of times each week and spends most of the call complaining, she can go all day without seeing/speaking to anyone so when I get home she will jabber to me - if she's in a good mood, when I really need 5 mins to unwind from dealing with everything at work. She also relies on me to do more and more indoors and for her, and she seems to think I am an all-knowing oracle because she will ask me questions, a lot of questions, about things I have no answer to and she can find out herself. Her best is when she picks up the remote for the TV and without pressing any buttons asks me what is on that evening. Bless her; I think that's an old person thing but after being questioned all day by people who can find the answers themselves when Mum does it to me once I get home it winds me up a little bit more than it should. To be around someone who has spent their whole life being so independant suddenly relying on me for the smallest of things is hard to deal with. 

I beat myself up, daily, for not being a better friend, sister, niece, cousin and aunt, because I am not touching base with people as often as I should, however, by the time I get chance to sit down for 5 minutes all I really want to do is sit quietly, catch up on my own thoughts. I think it's better for me to not speak to someone than for them to see in my face (if we're face timing) of hear in my voice that I'm really only doing so because I feel I should. I can't give 100% when I'm exhausted from the rest of the day, and the life I'm currently leading. Plus, I'm not doing anything, or going anywhere, that I could chat to them about. If I can't keep them interested then I am going to see in their face, hear in their voice, how they wish they could end the conversation, yet don't want to make me feel bad by doing so. It's like a really weird vicious circle. I don't like it, just right now I am not sure how to get out of it. 

This is why I think I am getting headaches; it's the combination of going from cold/damp to hot/dry and soooooooooooo many questions. My brain finally relaxes for an hour and that's when the pain creeps in. It's been locked away all day because there has been so much else for it to concentrate on. I think the nose bleed was just a by product of it all. 

I have to say, for all it's faults, I am quite glad I have facebook at this moment in my life - not often you'll hear me say that. I came across a page of happy people, who share happy/funny things and who all take jokes as jokes. So far (although I'm sure at one point it will happen) there are 7000 members and not one person has started an argument, taken offence, or brought politics/religion in. I head there first thing each day to scroll through some of the posts, and I always walk away with a smile on my face. 

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Good intentions

every day I wake up with such good intentions for all the things I am going to do that day, and all the amazing things I will achieve. Most include (but are not limited to) finally adding some more chapters to the book I've been writing for the past 20 years - yes, really, that long. Finishing the cross stitch I treated myself to for my 40th birthday, promising to have it completed, framed and on the wall by the time I turned 41 - we all know that never happened, although "thank you" to those of you sitting there now saying to yourselves "I thought she said she turned 37 this year?"!!

I tell myself I am going to update all the social media I have (and those for my business) along with tidying my shop to within an inch of it's life - it really is so very untidy, and whilst I can use the excuse I have been exceptionally busy just recently, unless things change in the next couple of weeks I don't have much work on so will have no excuses to not get off my fat, lazy arse and do it; how can I ever talk my business partner into allowing me to spend some money on new shelves and decorating bits if I can't keep what I currently have tidy? I'm there pretty much 9 hours each day, so no idea why I struggle not to get things done.

I start each week promising myself I will have read a book from cover-to-cover before the same day the following week rolls around (so far this year I have managed to read 2 books in total - in my younger days I would read that many in a week). 

I'm going to finish typing up my holiday diaries from the 2 fabulous trips I was blessed, and extremely lucky to have been able to go on last year (I've got one typed up) along with printing the photo's to coincide with them. I want to make a macrame hanger for my bedroom, one for the garden (in my defence on that one, I've not been able to source the waterproof cord I need). 

I bought a sketch pad and set of different thickness pencils about 5 years ago; I was going to spend some time doing some sketching. I signed up to some online classes; one in astronomy which I did sit down and work on once-a-week, then some maths came into it and that was me done - never was any good at maths and those figures and things I needed to know for it totally confused the shit out of me. However, I can add, subtract, multiply, divide in my head without the need for paper and I definitely don't need a calculator. I am also good at fractions and percentages; all the basics. Sadly I know people with A* A levels in maths who can't even add up basic numbers without a calculator, so I don't beat myself up too badly when it comes to being shit at all the other stuff. I also signed up for a writers course (figuring it might help me to finish the book!) and another course that I cannot even remember, although I'm going to assume it was something I am interested in. 

Since I was 16 years old I've promised myself I will learn to speak basic German. I can just about say "Hello" and "Goodbye". When I found out my great grandparents were Polish and that I still have family there I thought that would be another good language to learn. Not because I am ever going to use it in a conversation; it would just be nice to keep my brain active and be able to speak a little more than just the one language, although as someone said the other week I am half bilingual, so it's not all bad. 

I want to write a blog entry at least once-a-week, whether it gets read, or not. No point in paying for my own domain if I never use it. I joined our local library - still waiting for them to contact me to tell me that my card is ready for collection - and was going to find something I might be interested in that needed researching, in the "old fashioned way". Google is great, but you can't beat that challenge of rifling through a book; plus google doesn't always have the answer. I've spent an hour today trying to find if there is any info on when a pub I visited last year was built, and also if it may have had any residents that are no longer of this world (I almost had my thoughts on such things changed for me last week). 

I want to actually live and do something with my life, yet I just never seem to be able to find the time to do any of it, and I have no idea why that is. Last week I was on holiday with my family; now, I did spend 2 hours one day sitting in a rocking chair with my camera in my hands snapping off as many shots as I could, of the birds visiting the tree by where I was sitting. One evening I spent 30 minutes taking some long exposure shots of the clouds (the one below being my favourite of them all). The rest of the time though, other than a few trips out, I didn't seem to find the chance to read any of the books I took with me, and I have absolutely no idea why? I feel as though I blinked and another hour had passed by. 


We've been having a sort out at home and I have a load of stuff which needs to be sold - ebay, here I come, yet everything is still sat in a pile waiting for me to put it on ebay. It's never going to make any money just sitting around - waiting, and money is something I could really do with right now. The overdraft is getting a little out-of-control, the credit card is the highest it's ever been (gutted when this-time-last-year both were clear) and my car has developed a bit of an issue in the same week it needs to be MOT'd and taxed. All of this going on, and yet the bits are still sat there, waiting for me to put them out there for sale. 

I don't know when I got so lazy, or at least so bad at managing my time. 20 years ago I ran a house, saw my bestie pretty much every day, my family a couple of times each week. I read, I cross stitched, I walked the dog, I socialised. I did so much in each 24 hour section and yet here I am now; no bestie (so inconsiderate of her to die). No home of my own, no dog any more (she too died :( ) and yet I don't find time to read, cross stitch or do any of the things which have always brought me some joy in life. 

The worst part is I'm feeling this way, angry at myself for not doing anything about it, yet know that come tomorrow when I wake up with those great intentions, by the time I go to bed I'll be telling myself the same thing I tell myself when I go to bed every night "Don't beat yourself up about it; there's always tomorrow', yet one day there won't be a tomorrow, and then I'll spend an eternity sitting on my cloud being angry at myself for not doing more when I had the chance. How am I ever going to start my own podcast if I can't spare myself just 60 minutes in a day? 

Ahh well. Roll on tomorrow! 

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Why?

I was having one-of-those-weeks this week. The kind where you wonder 'why'? Why am I here? Do I have a purpose in life, and if so, what is it? 

Yesterday, I took a call from a lady wanting to order some flowers on behalf of her 8 year old son; he was sending them to his 9 year old girlfriend - yes, she's a cougar! Anyway, recently, due to her Dad's job, the 'cougar' had moved almost 200 miles away. Now, when I was 9 if you wanted to keep in touch with someone you did it via Royal Mail, known in this day-and-age as 'Snail Mail' - a service I still use; to me there's nothing to give you a buzz like receiving a letter/card from someone. Having it drop through the letterbox when you least expect it, then reading words that someone has spent time putting together, just-for-you, is a wonderful thing. Sadly though, when you're young, having to correspond that way can eventually contribute to relationships (friends and lovers alike) drifting apart. However, these days we have email, messenger, snapchat, whatsapp, and goodness knows how many other services for sending (electronic) mail. We share photos with each other on all of these, alongside our instagram and facebook, too. The second you hit "send" it can ping to your loved ones/friends and another second later they can be reading your words, or smiling/laughing at your photograph. It's quick and it's easy. Long distance relationships can feel like such a short distance if you facetime and skype (zoom, I believe, is the popular face-to-face service right now). 

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, these 2 little love birds have managed to keep a long distance relationship going, and I got to play a part in that when I took the call from his Mum, asking me to make up the flowers for her. Last evening I got a lovely email from the Mum, with a photo of the young lady (very pretty little girl - he's made a good choice) and the smile on her face made me realise, that's why I am here. Yes, his Mum could have gone to another shop, ordered through someone else, but she didn't; she came to me. 

On Monday I had a last minute call from one of my regular customers; she orders flowers to take up to her nieces and her Mum's graves on their birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. I set up a recurrence on our ordering system for them a few years ago - presumptive of me? Absolutely, however, I was able to say to her when she called, in a panic "Don't worry; your order is here, waiting for you whenever you are ready for it" She collected, paid, thanked me and left to take them to the cemetery. Today, she came in with a huge box of extremely posh chocolates (there's a lemon meringue one.. lemon meringue chocolates, whoever heard of such a thing? truly delightful it is too) and she thanked me for always having her back. That's why I am here.

This afternoon had a call from a guy who had never used his card to make payment over the phone before. He was really nervous. I took his order then went through the payment process with his as slowly, carefully and with instructions to make it easier. When we'd finished he said to me "I've been wanting to use my card for years but never felt confident enough to do so in the past. I can't thank you enough for your help". I'm not sure if it's a good, or bad, thing for me to have made it so easy (who knows how he might fritter away his money in the future) however, that's why I am here. 

This week, with the very smallest of gestures, which really were nothing to do with me other than being the other end of a phone, I made 3 peoples lives a little easier and brought the biggest of smiles to a 9 year old girl. 

The longer I live, the more I am learning that life really does have a funny way of throwing us some curveballs. Right now I am in a really good place; life is good, in one way - I'm quite possibly the poorest I have ever been when it comes to finances yet I am so rich in other ways. I'm well aware at any second it can all come crashing down around my ears (it wouldn't be the first time) however, because of moments like the ones I've had this week, when it does crash I'll know that once I can make it to the other side there will be more days like the ones I've had; days which have brought me such joy, made my heart sing and inspired me to keep on pushing. 

That's why I am here. 




Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Friday, 11 September 2020

Suicide Prevention Awareness Day

I missed it this year; caught up in work and life, however, it shouldn't be just about one day. It should be all days, because every-single-day someone, somewhere, takes their own life. I had a friend who did it, my Mum had a work friend do it, my 17 year old cousin did it, and I, myself, one dark rainy night in December 1996 came as close as I am ever going to get to doing it. Of the 4 of us only my friend's suicide didn't cause any shock. Mum's friend gave no clue or any kind of indication he was feeling that way, and as far as I'm aware, had I gone through with it I believe it would have come as a shock to the people who know - and love - me; they knew I was struggling a bit but don't think they realised just how low I had sunk - even I wasn't entirely sure how low that was. 

And that's the thing with suicide. It's often the ones you least expect who go through with it. The ones who are constantly dramatically throwing out there "I'm going to end it all", or "I just as well kill myself, because nobody cares" are pretty highly likely never going to actually go through with it. They are just looking for the attention. No, in my experience, the ones most likely to do it, don't let on to a soul about their intentions. Obviously, there are those genuine people who talk about it in the hope they may be able to stop themselves, or get help to deal with how they are feeling. There is a world of difference between dramatic attention seeking and genuinely asking for help. 

My cousin (ish, my Uncle married her Mum); 17 years old with her whole life ahead of her. She sat down, wrote letters for her family/friends and left home like she would any-other-day. Instead of going about her usual day though, she walked to a bridge, choosing the exact moment to jump off into the path of an upcoming lorry. Now, to me that is quite possibly the most selfish and thoughtless of ways to end your life; the poor driver of that lorry has to live with that moment/experience until the end of his days, however, to my cousin, it was the only way to ensure her end. She had meticulously calculated the best way (for her) to end whatever pain she was suffering. I wasn't inside her mind to know why she chose that way, and therefore, how I feel about it is irrelevant. I'm just sad she was unable to talk to someone, tell them how she felt. Sad for her that she felt suicide was her only option. 

My friend was slightly different. He'd hit a really rough patch in life. Don't get me wrong, he was no angel, and had been caught cheating by his wife, so she kicked him out. He'd burned a lot of bridges with other friends over-the-years because of his behaviour so nobody was rushing to help him out with somewhere to live. When he finally paid me a visit, I'd not seen (or heard) from him in 4/5 years. That didn't stop me from doing what I could though. I had no home of my own so was unable to let him stay with me (had I been in my own place I would have moved him in with me and maybe things would have turned out differently - that's something nobody can ever know). I did have him come to my shop during the daytime; I was in a different building then with a huge storage, back room area, which was dry, dark and safe, so after feeding him and letting him use the facilities to get clean (one of the girls in one of the beauty shops would wash his clothes for him) he'd bed down for a few hours and have some sleep. He still had a car so would park up nighttime at a local viewpoint. This went on for a few months and sometimes he would chat in a really positive way, giving the indication he was going to try and get himself sorted, not let his current situation get him down or become the course for the rest of his life. Then one day he didn't show, and the next day he didn't show either. After a week of not showing I hoped (wished) that someone had taken him in, or he'd been able to get himself sorted. Sadly, 3 months further down-the-line I learned that he had taken his own life. I wasn't surprised; I was sad for him though that things finally just became too much for him to cope with. 

My Mum's friend was even more of a shocker than my cousin. Nobody (including his wife) had a clue. He was an all-round great guy; one of the nicest people you could meet. He had a lovely home and was married with 3 young boys he absolutely worshipped. He loved working the same shifts as my Mum, and she (in turn) loved working with him. Especially when they were on nights; even more so if there was a meteor shower. It had become a bit of a thing and running joke between them that every time there was some kind of celestial event and they were working a night together it would end up being cloudy or raining. They'd talk for hours about alien life forms, sometimes jesting with each other, sometimes being a little serious about it all. He gave no indication to anyone that he was having a hard time with anything. He worshipped his boys and his whole face would light up when he talked about them. He'd been at work, been his usual self; he left telling everyone he'd see them the next day. They had no clue it would be the last time they saw him, for he went home and subsequently hung himself in his garage. Something inside of him must have broke because the man we all knew, and they all loved, would never have even considered such a thing, even more so when it was one of his beloved young boys who found him. Putting one of his kids in that situation went against everything he was, and believed in. Yet something, in that moment, triggered in him and that was it; he took his own life. For yonks after my Mum tormented herself trying to figure out if she had missed something, if there had been anything which may have perturbed to his mental state - after all, they worked on a mental health unit, they were trained in the signs, knew what to look for. He displayed not a single sign, or brought forth a red flag to anyone. Afterwards, it had transpired he'd been dealing with some personal issues that he'd never told a soul about. Maybe, just maybe, if he'd been able to talk to someone about it he may have been able to work through it all and would still be here; would have watched to see his boys grow into men. Hindsight, however, is a wonderful thing. 

You can't always save someone from their own demons, and no amount of talking can stop some people but I am so glad we live in a world where it is ok to talk about how you feel. For so long, especially among men, it was deemed you were weak if you dared to admit you were struggling - and there is a big difference between someone admitting they are struggling, to the dramatic attention seekers I have mentioned at the beginning of this entry. These days we are actively encouraged to speak about our feelings, and it is so refreshing that so many people are brave enough to. I'd like to think that by doing so, even though they may not end up feeling any better for it, they will realise that they are loved and are worthy of being loved. I know from my own personal experiences it's that feeling that you are not worthy, that you don't deserve anything, which is the hardest to get yourself out of. I'm not just talking about those of us who have been shit on from great heights, abused (mentally and physically) or who have suffered years of bullying; yes, that can be hard on a person, but equally those who have never had to endure any kind of hardship can be left feeling as unworthy and useless as the rest of us. They don't understand why they have been gifted everything, just as some don't understand why they haven't. Whilst those of us without feel hard done by, those with have to try and process why they have it all. I have an old friend who got absolutely everything they ever wanted, and always when they wanted it. One day they were hit by a massive wave of guilt about it, how they just took everything for granted, and they've been in therapy whilst taking a huge dose of pills daily, ever since, trying to process why?

Whatever your thoughts, your reasons, or demons you are fighting, know that you are no alone. There are others out there fighting in the same way; their demons may be different but they are borne of the same place. You've come this far; you are still here. You are brave, and you are a fighter. No matter how alone you may feel when you enter the darkness, you will notice there is always, always, a small flicker of light. You might not be able to see it immediately, but it's there. That light is comprised of all the people who love you; those whose lives you have affected in a wonderful way. That light is all the people who wish nothing but the best for you, those who are willing you to be able to step into a brighter, sunnier day. Look for it; you will find it/them. You may have to look harder than the person standing in the dark next to you, but it is there. Once you find it and allow yourself to be drawn to it, you'll find you're able to cut out those people/things who stand in the shadows trying to pull you back into the darkness. You'll falter at times (those demons can take a mighty good hold and will grip on like nothing else) however, the people radiating that light your way can lift you, can help you break the chains the demons are using against you. Once you make your way to them you'll realise you need not go back to those dark ones, the ones which caused you so much pain, heartache and made you feel worthless. After a while you won't even notice they/it are/is no longer a part of your life. You deserve nothing but the best in life. 

The whole "be kind" thing (sadly it didn't last long) a while back, after Caroline Flack took her own life, was such a good reminder that being kind to people is truly one of the best things you can do with your life. Just because someone else's life may appear charmed in caparison to yours doesn't mean it is. We all have our demons, we all have our insecurities and fear. We are all just trying to survive. You never know if you are crossing paths with someone at the very moment in their lives when they are thinking about going home to end it. Your kind/friendly words to them could mean all the difference; accordingly your treating them bad could also be the very moment they are tipped over-the-edge. I know it's not always easy. I'm one-of-those people who will rant before I think about how my ranting/raving at someone may be as a result of them not being in the right frame-of-mind (there is a difference between someone being a completely ignorant piece-of-shit on a regular basis, to someone who may have just cut you up because they could be rushing somewhere to get to a loved one for whatever reason) but I do try to think before I snap these days - for my own mental being as much as anyone elses. Even the bullies should not be hated; in fact, they should be pitied. They are obviously lacking in their lives somewhere and the only way to make them feel better about themselves, is to make you (the person they are bullying) feel worse. They don't seem to realise that the weaker they get (because being a bully will never make them anything other than weak) the stronger you will become. Once you rise above them they will become completely insignificant beings. Pity them and maybe try to help them see that life could be better for them if they were to just talk about how they feel. Of course, there are those who are just naturally pre-disposed to be arseholes. The only way to deal with them is to smack them one (hard) in front of their little groupies and then walk away. Take back the power you have allowed them to drain from you. 

Remember, also, that some of the funniest people you may know, the ones who are always smiling, laughing, and cracking jokes, could also be the ones sitting at home contemplating downing that bottle of whiskey whilst simultaneously popping the mountain of pills they have been storing up for a few months. We've all done it. Painted a smile on our faces (for whatever reason) when we feel anything but happy. Depression doesn't just show itself in the people who often look sad, or struggle to hold a conversation with you. Suicidal thoughts can be easily hidden behind a smile, or covered with a joke. Some of the best comedic performers have struggled with their mental health in ways we would never have seen, using their humour to hide what is really going on inside of them.

As I sit here today, tapping away on the keyboard, I think back to that cold, dark winters night almost a quarter of a century ago, and I am so glad I wasn't brave enough to go through with the ending of my own life. Our natural human instinct is to protect ourselves at-all-costs; suicide takes us as far away from ourselves as we could possibly be, so I can only guess a little of me was still in there desperately struggling to hold on. I had everything I believed I needed, laid out before me. Somewhere though, in the back of my mind, that inner voice (which had so often taunted me) spoke, telling me I was looking for someone, something, some kind of logic which would tell me to "stop". It couldn't be family or friends; they would be telling me to stop for the wrong reasons (albeit the right ones too). It had to be someone who would know about such things, and that is how I found myself dialling the number for the Samaritans - had someone told me before that night I would do such a thing I would have laughed at them; laughed hard, and loud. I can't remember the name of the lady whose voice answered the phone to me, and for that I am slightly ashamed. What I do know is she pissed me off. Big time. I had wanted someone to tell me not to do it, talk to me about what I could do, how I could get through it. She never did any of that - she wasn't allowed to; they still aren't. Instead I spent an hour literally sobbing down the phone to her. I told her more about myself than I think even I realised I knew. When I finally hung up I was angry; fuming, with that wonderful woman who ended up being my saviour. I'd got so angry at her lack of advice, I hung up that phone determined to prove to her that I was worth something. She will never know how very grateful I am to her (once I'd got over the anger I realised she was an absolute angel and I was blessed to have been put-in-touch with her that night). Don't get me wrong; I have had some pretty dark moments since that night, one night even saying out loud "if this is it, then just take me and be done" (I was really struggling with chicken pox and hadn't slept for 4 days so was feeling a little bit rough). Life didn't suddenly get better and become all moonlight-and-roses (in fact at times it's thrown more shit at me in just a few months, than it had thrown at me throughout those first 26 years of my life when I called her) yet somehow, somewhere from deep within, and which I truly believe is born from my conversation with (my sobbing at) her, nothing has ever pushed me even close to the edge I was on that night. It doesn't matter who you are, what people have told you, or how weak you think yourself, if you're struggling, go and talk to someone. As crazy as it sounds, it really can (and very often does) help.

Call the Samaritans; 116 123

Email them; jo@sarmaritans.org

Write to them; Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2SA

They won't judge you, nor will they tell you what to do. They will, however, listen and be there for you. I know this from my own experience. 

I'm a little less sure about Mind (although I know of someone who says they were instrumental in getting them back-on-track and helped immensely when they suffered a breakdown). I just had an issue with them as I knew someone who worked as a counsellor for them; the person is one of the nastiest, most narcissistic and judgemental bullies I've ever come across. However, someones personality and behaviour outside of their work, does not reflect on the good they can do on the inside. The mind website has some links to different places, and for all age groups, which may be able to help. 

On this very day, aside from being angry at myself for still being a fat bint (something I really am working on - intermittently, and I know it all stems back to my earlier life, that I will have to face it, deal with it and move on) I am in the best mental state that I have ever been in. I think part of my getting my rid of my facebook (I will go back because I miss all the funny memes one friend shares, and the great photos a family member shares) is because I have learned I no longer need to look to other people for their approval of me. I realised it doesn't matter what someone else thinks about me. They can love me, or they can loathe me. What matters is how I think of myself. If I allow others to treat me bad then I have nobody to blame but myself when they do. If someone likes/loves me for who/what I am, then great. I am truly blessed. If they don't, that's great to. They are free to move on and find someone they do like. I think back over the past 24 years and look at all the things I would have missed out on had I not picked up the phone that evening. The amazing journeys I have taken, visiting places I thought would never be more than just-a-dream. I've seen my number 1 blossom into a beautiful woman, and now a Mum to 2 amazing children (she bore me a new nephew just this week). I've discovered family we never knew existed, who we've been blessed to get to know, to meet them, and to fall in love with them all. I've made new friends (some of whom are a real joy!!) and found the strength/courage to rid myself of old ones who treated me badly, thus enriching my life further. I've had nights out with Rock Stars, and started my own business (which, thankfully, is currently thriving). I've watched my brother marry the love of his life, witnessed the beaming smile on my Mum's face as she swam with turtles in crystal clear waters. I've seen a bear dig for roots in it's wild, natural habitat, and taken a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. I've got drunk in Las Vegas, lost my way in the forest, alone, in the dark, and literally had my breath taken away by the Norwegian Fjords. I squeezed my body into lilac satin for my best friends wedding and slid 20 feet down a sheer rock face (that was a wee bit scary and made me cry!!) I've crossed the Atlantic in a first class seat, and swung in a hammock on a Caribbean beach.  That night I made the phone call I thought my life was over. Truth is, it was just beginning. 

Remember, if you are still at the part in your own life journey where things are tough, and you are struggling, reach out to someone - anyone (even the Samaritan lady who made me so angry). I know it may not feel like it right now, but life can get better (and at times it could get really hard again) but you are here, you are alive and there is help out there. Remember you are more than worth it. You were that one sperm who fought off millions of others and won. You have already taken one of the hardest battles to get yourself here. You matter. Your life matters. 


Now, more than ever, with all the crazy going on in the world, and the pandemic which has taken a hold of us all, people are struggling in ways they never would have thought possible. Some of you will have lost loved ones, others will have lost your jobs, some of you will have lost everything (materially and emotionally). Don't give up; easy for me to say when I have a job, roof over my head, and food in my (rather large) belly. I know it may seem as though there is no hope for you right now but if you're still here, if there is still air in your lungs, then you are alive, and if you're alive you can find the strength to keep fighting. Ask for help, tell people you are struggling. Don't become another casualty of life. I know to some of you right now, suicide may seem like the final answer. The fact you are sat reading this though, goes some way to prove that there is, and can be, more. If you're reading this you have the internet and if you have the net, there is hope. Use it to your advantage. Tell google (siri, alexa, bing or any other AI and browser) to find you help; make contact with someone. Reach out. Somebody, somewhere will be able to help you, and they'll do that because you are worth it.