Thursday, 16 September 2021

I'm exhausted, mentally, spiritually and physically. My body is hurting in places I didn't know it could hurt, some days just heaving myself out of bed causes pain to shoot all over me. I either sleep at night so heavy when the alarm goes off it shocks the system and because I've not woken naturally I spend the rest of the day feeling fuzzy headed, or I don't sleep at all which leaves me feeling so drained for the following day. 

I work hard, always have done. I've never worked less than 48 hour weeks, always worked over a 6 day week; I've done that (and so many more hours) for the past 35 years. For the first 10 years of my working career I had just one weeks holiday each year; this did go up to 2 weeks each year. Between 2006 - 2014 I was back to just one week each year. I did manage 3 weeks in October 2014, then was back to one week a year until 2019 when I did a week at the beginning of the year and 10 days at the end. Nobody can tell me I've not put the hours in, not done the work. 

Of course I am well aware there are people out there working twice as hard as me; people who have no time off, haven't been lucky enough to go on holiday or travel anywhere other than the place I live. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be for them, which is why I tend to keep things in, bottle them up, not say anything because compared to those people I have the world. I've been overseas; I've seen geysers, stood on mountains; I swam in the caribbean sea, drunk moose drool in a bar. I've watched an eagle soar over my head, seen a brown bear digging up roots less than 10 feet away from me. I was lucky enough to fly first class (an old friend was a flight attendant) have ridden the elevator at the Empire State Building - what a rush that was. First time I ever suffered from vertigo. I made sacrifices to be able to achieve all those things, went without for years to scrimp and save. I drove cars that bits fell off, that had no heating in winter or cooling in summer. Cars that would jump out of gear when you went to pull away, and with roofs that would leak. 

I've lived in a studio flat (more like a bedsit) that was disgusting but all we could afford. I lived in my car for a while, and on a friends sofa. I've lost my Dad, boyf and best friend at the ages of 49, 26 and 42. I've had my heart broken and trampled on more than once. I've been beaten, used and abused. I'm now middle aged, alone, living with my aging Mum who is reliant on me more and more every day. I currently work 60+ hours each week; when not at work I'm looking out for her, and trying to fit in time with my best friends daughter and her children. My bank account is deeply in the red, my credit cards are maxed to break point, thanks to a massive loan an ex of mine took out in my name, forging my signature 25 years ago. I knew nothing about it until bayliffs turned up at my door; I had no proof it wasn't me who signed for it so I have been responsible for it. The trouble is the repayments were twice the amount I was earning, so I had to quit a job I loved, take one I hated, just to cover a loan for money I never got to spend. 

Yes, there are people far worse off than I am, but right now, here, in this moment, and at this point in time, I am exhausted, and I still have so many battles still to come. People always say "If there's anything I can do, let me know" or "I'll help out a little more". It took me a long time to admit I was struggling and needed a little help now-and-then and the crazy thing is all those who offered, said they will start to do more to help are still living their lives as they always have and I'm still the one dealing with it all, which is fine. I am blessed to still have a Mum who is alive, I am blessed to have a job I love; I am human though, and as a human I have feelings, issues to deal with. I live in a world where people around me are struggling with their own mental health; I understand totally and am there whenever they feel to talk. Oddly enough none of them is ever there when I need to talk. It's as though I don't really exist. I'm just the person who complains a lot, the one they don't really want to spend time with because I annoy them. Pretty sure though if I was no longer here they'd soon be wishing they could have me back annoying them; maybe then people might realise that whilst I do have it all, everything each day is a struggle. Spiritually, physically and most of all, mentally. 

Sunday, 12 September 2021


 The sunflower 🌻 that decided to seed itself in the fuschia hanging basket; I do believe it’s living it’s best life 😂

Saturday, 11 September 2021


On this day, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US, I have found myself watching a documentary, like many others around the world I am sure will do, or have done in the past few weeks. A lot of footage I have seen many times before, but no matter how many times I may have seen it, I still find it shocking, it still makes me feel sick, and I still cannot imagine how those people who were caught up in it must have felt. To see people hanging out of windows knowing they have just 2 choices; jump, or die from the fires burning all around them, is unimaginable to me. They knew they were about to die, and in an absolutely horrendous way. People like you, or I, going about their daily life. The families of those people, not knowing if their loved one had been killed, is inside the building, is one of those jumping to their death. The fear must have been all consuming. The documentary I watched also had footage I've never seen before, footage I'm not really sure I wanted to watch as it covered - in detail - a lot more of what happened that day, of the human tragedies; thankfully it also covered some tales of heroism and people who made it out alive against-the-odds. New footage that people living in, and around, the area had filmed themselves when the news of what had happened began to filter through. 

Like most people alive that day who were over a certain age I remember where I was as it all happened. I was at work; it was just me and my boss, and as I walked through the doorway from the shop to the workroom I heard the DJ on the radio say "we're getting reports of some breaking news that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York".  At the time they seemed to believe it was a light plane which was experiencing technical difficulties. It really seemed like a minor detail. I was imagining a small 2 seater plane; the kind you see taking off from small airports on a Sunday morning. A couple of people sitting in the cockpit out for a fly. I figured maybe whomever had been flying had most likely been killed, but remembered hearing that the towers had been built to withstand a plane crash, so the thought it might have made it through the exterior and into the offices wasn't one which even entered my mind. 

I'd visited New York the previous October. Eaten breakfast - bagels, of course - in a small diner just across the road from the WTC. The shadows from such a monstrous building made the street feel as though it was more evening time, than morning time. We took a trip on the Staten Island ferry and I remember being overawed at how they dominated the New York Skyline, something I'd heard about so many times throughout my life, which I was finally experiencing for myself. Back then I had a very basic camera, a little point-and-shoot with film so I didn't take many pictures. Years later I came across the pouch with them in, had a look through and realised I did have a couple with the towers in them. It was whilst visiting I'd learned about them being built to withstand a plane crash. 

More information had obviously trickled through to the news networks for the reporter was now saying it wasn't a light aircraft, but a passenger aircraft. Again, it still didn't register with me that much damage could be done, and I assumed it was a tragic accident; a plane had run into difficulties either taking off from, or making it's descent to land, at one of the 3 airports around New York - JFK, Le Guardia and Newark. We had no TV so couldn't see the images that were being shown - they imprinted into my mind later when I got home that evening - so were listening to the news crews of our local station relaying the scatty information they were getting. For some reason, both my boss and myself began to eventually realise what we were listening to was something really important, something which needed us to stop what we had been doing so that we could take in what we were hearing. 

As the 2nd plane hit I remember saying "oh my god, this will see us going to war; whoever has done this has just declared war on the USA. We could be about to enter WW3". I genuinely believed that too. Thankfully the war I was imagining never happened, at least not on our shores; I'm sure those overseas who we invaded on behalf of the US whilst they conducted their own invasions, felt like their world was ending. 

Then I remembered a friend of mine, a flight attendant, the one who had organised mine and my friends trip to NYC the year before, was there; she was meant to be staying in lower Manhattan and had told us the previous evening she had plans to take a new steward on her flight for breakfast at the WTC that morning. She would have been there when the planes hit. Immediately I called her brother, my closest male friend from early childhood to check whether he knew if she had gone, or if he had heard from her. As I'm sure you can imagine he was distraught, was watching images on TV of what was happening, and as far as he was aware his sister was inside one of those buildings. It was 2am the following morning before he finally called to let me know she'd been in touch; it had taken her all that time to get a phone reception. As luck would have it there had been a problem with the hotel they should have been staying in so they had been moved to one on Long Island, and having had a night out with the crew the evening before, her and the new steward had decided to breakfast in their hotel and were going to lunch in the city. 

After reports came through that the Pentagon had been hit, my boss told me to leave, letting me go home early; for the first time in all the years I'd known her she closed the shop up before the official closing time. She went home too. 

I was driving as the first tower came down; I'd switched the radio on before even starting the car. I got home, I walked indoors, made my way to the living room where I saw my Mum, sitting in her chair, staring at the TV as though she was in some kind of trance. She didn't even look up as I walked in, however, she did say to me "have you seen what's going on in New York?". She never once took her eyes from the screen. I said that I had and was waiting on news that my friends sister was ok. Mum knew the girl, the family, and said to me "if she was there, the chances are she's going to have been killed; one of the towers has just collapsed whilst I was watching. I've never seen anything like it".

I sat in my chair across the room from her, the news was showing a replay of the South Tower collapsing. My brain wasn't able to compute and register what I was seeing. Then they showed a montage of the moments the planes had first hit and I got to see what I had been listening to on the radio. I think like everyone in the world who was watching it was beyond all comprehension. I kept watching for the rest of the evening, through the night and into the early hours of the following morning, right up until the moment I got the call to say my friends sister was ok. There was so much speculation about how it happened, who had done it, was somewhere else about to be hit. Planes were grounded but there were already some still in the sky. There were reports fighter jets had shot some planes down. So many different and conflicting stories. Yet all the while those harrowing images of the towers being hit, then crumbling to the ground were being replayed; over, and over, and over again, and not matter how hard I tried to look away, I could not stop myself from watching. 

I'd like to say that the final outcome of what happened has made the world a better place, that those people didn't die for nothing; sadly I cannot say that, for the world is as much of dangerous place now as it was then, in fact probably more so. 9/11 won't ever happen again but I am pretty sure at some point in the future someone will come up with something that will shock us, shake us to our core. What those people who plan such atrocities and carry them out forget is that they don't win, they will never win for we will always pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get-on-with-it. What we must never do though is forget; we owe it to those people who put their life on the line 20 years ago, to those who have laid down their lives that day, to never forget them. We cannot let them have died in vain. 

Friday, 10 September 2021

Gull i Bull

I remember once being told the word "Gullible" wasn't in a dictionary; damn right I looked it up! That pretty much says all you need to know about me 😂😂 Over the years I have tried to be more sceptical but it just seems to be a part of who I am; I trust, until that trust is broken. This is a good thing in one way, obviously not so good in another, hence why even after almost 30 years I'm still working my fat ass off to pay back the debt my ex left me with. A debt I never got to see a penny of. Anyway, this isn't about him, it's about someone else.

Back in April 2003 my best friend had a 3 year old running around and a 9 month old already crawling; her 11 year old had just discovered she could give her Mum a bit of attitude and walk away because she already had her hands filled with the kids. My bestie was also on the verge of breaking up with the father of the younger 2. The time we'd once been able to share together had been drastically cut down to once-or-twice a week; always on a Saturday though. That never stopped. She had a lot going on; the guy I was seeing had died just 2 years earlier (April 7th to be exact) and as it was coming up to that anniversary I found myself a little lonely and had lost my way in life a bit. 

I had other friends but they weren't people I hung out with on a regular basis. The internet wasn't what it is right now; there was no facebook or whatsapp where you could message your friends and family anywhere in the world for free. Text messaging still cost money and you had to take out a pretty decent phone contract to get messages included, and the idea of sharing photos with people was unheard of unless you had a top-of-the-range phone and could afford the high charges of sharing them. Of course, there was email but that always seemed like a chore, and meant you had to have enough to say to make it worthwhile sending one. I also didn't want to burden my friends with all the crap going through my head. That's when a random thought hit me. I should get a penpal. Back in the mid-to-late 1990's a friend of mine had been sent to prison; he deserved to be there, he'd done wrong and I am a real advocate that if you commit the crime you most definitely should do the time. It wasn't anything too major, he got 12 months and during those 12 months he would write to me - occasionally phone but that wasn't as easy back then as it is now. He'd ask me what was going on, how mutual friends were doing; I'd waffle about work, moan about people who had pissed me off. I loved it. Whilst watching TV I could sit and jot down a few bits-and-pieces. I guess I sent a letter every couple of weeks. He said to me once that the letters had really brightened up his day and he would often let his cellmate read them as the guy didn't really have any friends or family. When he got out he asked if I'd still send the odd letter every now-and-then to his cell mate. I had no issues with it, after all my friend had vouched for him, and right up until he was released a couple of years later I'd pop a letter in the post to him every month. I never shared anything really personal but it was nice to have someone to get all my crap off my chest to; he would do the same. Once out I never heard from him again and that worked for me. 

So, there I was, this one spring evening remembering about him, when I thought to myself "I know, I'll get a penpal". At the time there were a lot of things on the news about soldiers fighting overseas who didn't have anyone really back home and some companies had been set up to provide them with someone who'd pop a letter out to them occasionally just so they didn't feel left out among their peers and also to help boost their moral. "Perfect" I thought to myself. I managed to find details of several different companies who offered the service and put my name down for them. The questionnaires I filled in were quite detailed but I answered the questions honestly; don't see the point in not doing so for you're sure to get caught out if you do. What I didn't know at the time was that they weren't just dealing with soldiers overseas.

Only one company bothered to get back to me. The lady in charge of my details told me they were overrun with people wanting to write to the military so she was unable to put me in contact with anyone serving but she asked how I would feel about writing to someone in prison. I know I'd done it before but one had been someone I was close to, the other someone my friend was willing to vouch for. As trusting as I am I was also a little wary; you hear such awful stories about people getting caught up in stuff because of such a thing. She then assured me she would only put me in contact with people overseas; if I had any issues I was to reach out to her so she could put a stop to it. That's how I found myself one day with the names, numbers and addresses of 3 different men in 3 different prisons dotted about the USA. 2 of them were Native American, 1 was African American. I was informed of the crimes all 3 had committed, how long their sentences were for and giving access to their history. She was upfront about everything. Being a white woman I wasn't really sure what I would have in common with any of them but I fired off 3 letters, popped them in the post box and waited. 

The one in Colorado never bothered to reply. The first guy who did was the African American; he was in Michigan. He only had another 2 years left to serve, and actually got released just 9 months after he first wrote. I never talked about why he was in there, and never once shared anything personal about myself. Other than my address (which, looking back was not such a good thing; what if they had been really awful people; they knew where I lived. I don't even let some friends I have known for years know where I live) all he knew was that I worked as a florist. I would talk about friends but never gave away any details and I certainly never shared photographs of myself, or anyone else with him. The other guy also contacted me. He was 4 years into a 10 year sentence for armed robbery. Born and raised on a reservation in Arizona he was very open in the things he would share with me, especially about life as a Native person. Myself, I've always had a thirst for knowledge about the Native People, their way of life and how they were almost eradicated so I felt him and I had a connection. Not that kind; oh my goodness no, although I did once let my Mum and brother believe their was. My Mum had opened a letter I'd written him which had been returned. In it was a Christmas card I had made that was for him from one of the women he had on the outside at the time; oh, yeah, over time I got to know some of his outside friends too. This one, also called Sarah, had emailed me to ask if I could make a card for her to give to him. She'd left it too late for me to mail it to her, for her to then send on to him, so asked me to write in it for her, which I did. It got returned and my family thought that it was from me. Had they bothered to actually pay any attention they would have seen I'd altered my handwriting completely to make it as close to hers as I possibly could. They didn't bother with that, put 2+2 together and came up with 934854574895. The next thing I knew I had my Mum, brother and brothers other half, turn up at the shop I was working in 2hours from home to ask me about it all. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. For one thing they could have waited until I was home before asking, and 2 they should never have opened mail addressed to me in the first place, so when they asked me if there was something going on and I was "one-of-those women" (you know the ones who write to prisoners, fall in love with them and end up believing they can marry them and live happily ever after) I played along, letting them believe that I might have been having feelings for him. That could not honestly have been further from the truth, but that's what happens when you read someone else's personal stuff and make an assumption - I think even now they probably still believe it. When I told him, he would then put stuff in my letters at times in case Mum opened any more that would play along with the notion if she ever did. Or at least I thought he was playing along! I still do, just in a different way. 

We wrote right up until a few weeks before he got released, sometime in 2009, when we had a big fallout about something completely inconsequential. I think it was really that he didn't want to stay in contact as a free man, and I respected that. I don't mind admitting that for a little while I did feel quite lost without having him around. I would write to him about whatever crap I was dealing with in life. I was happy to tell him personal things about myself. In all honesty he was a lot cheaper than therapy. I could talk about whatever was getting me down, hurting or upsetting me, post the letter off and by the time he received it a week-or-2 later whatever I'd been dealing with was dealt with. Had I gone to see someone they would have interjected as I was talking; friends would have stopped me halfway to give advice. That never happened with him because of how everything worked. For me it was great; I think it was for him too, although towards the last few years of us writing he would get jealous of me hanging out with other people, or talking to other guys. I found this a little odd, however, I assumed he was worried they would stop me writing so often. 

He never once asked me for anything. He would often hint he had no money for stamps; I'd just reply "ok, well, write when you can". I'd learned my lesson the hard way when it came to trusting men with money. I certainly wasn't going to make that mistake with someone I didn't actually know in real life - as such. 

A few years ago I was thinking about him at work one day, wondering how he was getting on with life; things have changed since those first days, now we have the internet, and I've learned I'm quite good at finding people on it 😂😂 Thanks to my brother's initial research in getting us names, I was able to track down a family member and now we have a whole family we're in contact with that we never even knew existed. I also found the address of another cousin who actually thought they had their details secure. Finding my old penpal was something I thought I might be able to do, just to see how he was getting on. I really hoped to find his living his best life. What I found was him back in prison. This made me sad in one way, for I truly believed he would make something of himself on the outside, whilst being good in another way as I was at a point in life where I was beginning to struggle with the death of my best friend. I remembered how talking to him had helped me deal with a whole host of shit, so I dropped him a letter. Oddly enough, as my letter was crossing the Atlantic to him, he had written me and his was on it's way to me - we'd done that a few times at different times; answering each other's questions before they had been asked. I am happy to admit I definitely felt a connection to him but in a more spiritual way. 

For a few weeks we wrote again but this time his letters were different. He was no longer the same person he had been. Everything about him and his persona was a bit "off" so I knocked it on the head, said I wasn't able to write any more.  I never heard from him for over a year then got a letter out-of-the-blue. He apologised for how he had been and seemed a lot more upbeat than he had been. Never one to give up on someone unless I absolutely have to, I figured I could use the someone to talk to. I was going through all the shit, and lies to do with several of my oldest friends at the time, people I had loved and trusted who had let me down in a really big way. I needed someone to vent all that too and he was there. However, as the years have moved on, and we've gone from writing to now emailing - I genuinely do not like the whole email side of things - he has reverted back to that different person. He will now give snippets of info without telling me anything. Whereas at one time if I asked him something he would always answer, now he doesn't. If I didn't email him at least 4 times a week he would get shitty with me. It was as though he was a completely different person. He then started to tell me he wished I could love him in the way he loved me, which I found really odd, or he would say "I know you will never feel about me how I do about you" almost trying to guilt trap me. He's right too; I will never feel that way about him. I found it harder and harder to talk to him and then he asked me to look someone up for him. The second he did that a few alarm bells went off in my head. I never looked the person up, told him I had but couldn't find anything. I don't know why he wanted to know. In all those years, other than asking me to send photos of Kin Kartrashian that he could put on his wall, that was the first time he'd ever asked me for something and I didn't like the way he asked. Something in the back of my mind said "this isn't right". 

I continued to email though, and then the company who run the email system got taken over, and people from outside the US were no longer able to pay for the electronic stamps you need to send an email - way cheaper than actual postage stamps and I only I get to use them so it wasn't as though I was buying them and he was able to use them. I had to revert back to snail mail, but until he received a letter from me he didn't know what was going on and he would email me constantly asking where I was. Some of his emails were really quite aggressive in their tone. Then I got a phone call at work one day. He'd asked me to fill in a form for him to be able to call me. I told him I'd done it, but I hadn't. I didn't want him to be able to. I just said it must have got lost in the post or the prison had rejected it so when he was able to call me it really did piss me off a bit. They should not have allowed his call to come through to me. I did accept a call from him once; I found it uncomfortable and awkward which is weird because I loved this guy as a friend. We'd been through a lot together over the years. Both of us had lost our best friends in the same year as well so we had many things we were able to talk about and share, that I know really helped me to deal with it. 

Eventually I was able to get some stamps with the help of a friend who lives stateside. He paid for them and I used paypal to reimburse him. I wish now I'd not bothered for I have felt that I was being constantly hassled to look up things for him, to email him photos; he started asking for 'naughty' photo's from me; like I was ever going to do that. It would take a special kind of idiot to send those kind of pics to a prisoner who could then share them with everyone. I've never even let the guys I've lived with have those kind of photo's. I may be gullible in a lot of things, not what it comes to that kind of thing though. I found this really odd though as he'd never done such a thing before, and that's pretty much how it's been for this year. A load of crap about how he wishes I love him while asking me to send him photo's. It was as if it wasn't him I was talking to. Then about 6 weeks ago he asked me to look someone up for him. He told me that a friend of his (as far as I was aware his only friend was dead!!) had written him some time before Christmas but because he'd been moved about so much he'd not received the letter until the beginning of August (this in itself I believe is bullshit). He needed to get in touch with this friend desperately however couldn't because he didn't have his address. This was the moment I'd been gullible in the sense that I believed the guy I'd written to for all those years was different to all the others you hear the horror stories about. Maybe I was lucky first-time-around because then he had a release date; maybe I was just there to help him and be a friend to him. Now though, he won't get out for at least another 20 years; he's changed, I've change. He was free for a few years too so goodness knows who he was mingling with during those times. I stopped writing so much, telling him I didn't have enough stamps so had to ration them. He then told me another friend of his had got a pre-paid credit card, he could let me have the details if I told him what I needed and I could use that to buy the stamps. I know such things exist so it didn't even register with me to begin with that this could be a lie. Now I don't believe a word of it. 

I never got any details from him; after asking me for the 3rd time what I would need to be able to buy my stamps with this pre-paid card his "friend" had got him I realised there was something a little 'off'. I thought about him asking me to track down this other "friend" who had written him, but who writes a letter to someone and doesn't include their address? The more I thought about it, the more I smelled bullshit, the more gullible I realised I was in danger of becoming. I never asked for the "friend's" name as I had/have no intention of looking him, or anyone else up. I have realised that the pre-paid card is more likely to belong to someone who doesn't know a prisoner somewhere has their details; such things can be done and are obtainable. I have contacted the company who run the email system and asked them to remove all my details from their records; I have some stamps left on the account but I'm not going to use them. I've lost count though of the amount of times I've asked the company to remove my details; I've emailed them, used their "contact us" link, even tweeted them and heard nothing back from them. As they are american based I have no idea how to get them to remove my details or who I would need to report them too. I am going to send them a letter. The only thing I knew I could actively do was to delete the email address I was using that was connected to the account, although they still have my home address registered on there. They are a financial organisation so I'm guessing that will stay secure; I hope it will. Because I have deleted the email account I am hoping when they constantly keep getting their emails bounced back they will realise the account is inactive and close it down. That was my biggest mistake. Allowing a digital footprint of my connection to him to exist, and it does concern me slightly that my connection could go against me from being allowed to visit the US in the future; I know they can be funny about some things. All my emails are probably stored on the companies system though so they'd be welcome to read all of them to see that my only interest in the US is visiting family and their amazing national parks. I was writing to him regularly the last couple of times I was out there; just not in the digital world though. 

Basically I have had to ghost him. I'm not going to be played by anyone, least of all someone I had once considered a friend. He's calling me several times a week; I ignore the calls, although for the most part they seem to cut off after only a couple of rings so I think they have issues with the system their end. They shouldn't even allow him to call as I have never given them permission to. I know you have to press a number to accept a call; I wonder if I pressed the number required to not accept they would then stop him from calling me? I might give that a go when he rings next. This has been going on for almost 2 months now; he's made no attempt to write a snail mail letter to me so I don't think he is really interested in talking to me as such; I think he just wants to use me in the digital age to get information. He's shit out on that one; I wasn't going to do it before when he asked. I'm certainly not going to do it now. 

If you have come across this because you're thinking of writing to a prisoner in the digital age, please take note that whilst you may think you can trust them, at some point they will prove to you that you cannot. I had a thing flash up on facebook a while back about a woman who was brazenly open about writing to a guy on the inside and a guard from a prison shared some titbits he'd seen going on. This opened my eyes even more to how easy it would be to get sucked in if you were a gullible type person. Just a google search this morning about how safe it is to write to these guys and this came up as the very first post...   

"14 yrs Law Enforcement w/ 7 of those years in Corrections.

Writing an inmate isn't dangerous as long as you keep in mind that you are writing an inmate. They literally have all day to write the perfect letter. They tell you everything you want to hear. They will consult other inmates on what to say and how to phrase things; some have asked guards to proofread the letter. Sometimes other inmates will write the letter for them.

Also, keep in mind that you aren't the only one writing them. I've seen some inmates get 5-8 letters a night and yes, it's very public who gets letters. It's kind of a status symbol.

I'm not going to say that every one of them is a scan artist, but many are. The guy with 5-8 letters, guess what? All those girls are also sending him money also. Remember, you won't be "the only one."

Whilst I am grateful to the lady who first put us in touch for in the beginning I learned a lot of things from him about his ancestral history, I also wish she had just given me the military personnel I had requested in the first place. If you are thinking about writing to a prisoner make sure you prepare yourself; don't let yourself get sucked in. You are worth more than that, and please don't believe it won't happen to you, because somewhere along the line, at some point, it will. 

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Memory Lane

So often I hear people say "never look back, it's not good for you; always keep looking forward" and whilst I agree (to a point) that dwelling on a past that has been-and-gone is not good for you, taking little trips down memory lane is definitely not a bad thing. Without doing so we'd never be able to keep the spirit of a loved one dancing, for we'd never talk about them if we couldn't look back, and I for one, love to chat about my loved ones who have left this earth too early. 

This past month I've done a lot of trips down the old 'Memory Lane' starting with a Saturday afternoon drive a few weeks back. I try to take my Mum out at least once a week. She's retired (it was forced upon her) living only off her government pension where she was left in so much shit after my Dad died at the age of just 49, with no life insurance; they'd not long remortgaged the house. She worked her fingers to the bone to keep a roof of the heads of herself and my younger brother (just 14 at the time) however, she wasn't in a highly paid job which meant all her money was spent on paying the bills; getting by from one day to the next, as so many people in this world do. This left nothing for a private pension. Don't get me wrong; she's not complaining. She knows that compared to a lot of people around the world she is lucky. She kept that roof over their heads, now it's kept over hers. Due to losing her job though, and her eyesight, she had to give up her car. She's not one who has spare cash to be a 'lady who lunches' so her only time away from home is if she hops on a bus and pops into town; something she wasn't able to do during the lockdowns, but she is back to a twice weekly jaunt for a few hours again now. Because of this, her situation, the fact she's not getting any younger, I made the decision to spend more time with her, making memories of our own whilst giving her a change of scenery. 

For a while we would go out on a Tuesday afternoon to visit different garden centres, always stopping for a coffee, and picking up plants we didn't need that were being sold off cheaper because they needed a new home, someone to tend to them, give them life. We can both relate to those plants! Then covid hit and we stopped. I know we can now visit them again, and we have a few times, however, I cannot bear to wear a mask. My whole face gets hot, sweaty, and I struggle to breathe wearing one so I avoid going anywhere at the moment for that reason, so now we've taken to going for a little drive to different places. Not too far away as the price of fuel is extortionate; I also don't do many miles-to-the-gallon myself and need to pee a lot more than someone my age should. Public toilets are not places I wish to use, and until such time as I win the lottery and can afford to buy the all electric camper van I dream of owning, that has it's own toilet (meaning I could be out for 15 hours in one hit if I needed to be) then I can't be too far from home, just in case I need to go! Having said that a few Saturdays ago we ended up finding ourselves driving several hundred miles (I'm going to admit by the time I got home I was pretty much dribbling as I ran up the stairs to our bathroom; another 5 minutes and I would never have made it!). 

It's always left to me to choose where we should go. Mum thinks because I have to drive she doesn't want to tell me places to visit in case I don't want to go where she suggests. This infuriates me as I am always asking her to help me out; I cannot think of everything, so when she suggested we take a couple of hours drive to the small village my grandparents lived on the outskirts of, I was not only surprised at her making a decision I was happy as I'd been thinking about the place a lot myself in recent weeks - I'd smelled a bonfire a while back and whenever I smell one I am transported back in time to my grandparents place. They were a lovely couple, your a-typical grandparents. Both of them short, slender people. My Nanny with a head of white hair, always kept styled, my Grandad was a darker grey. They'd raised 4 sons (3 of whom went on to do really well for themselves; the 2nd son - my Dad - wasn't one to be shut up indoors and started working on steam trains before moving to be a coach driver when the railways went to diesel; neither of these jobs were well paid but what he didn't make financially wise, he made up for in enthusiasm!) and they didn't have a pot to piss in. When they reached the age that they should have retired, taking life easy and been enjoying themselves, they had to sell everything they own and took jobs working for a family that owned a lot of land and properties. Whilst my grandad tended their 8 acres of grounds, my Nanny kept their house clean, did their washing/ironing and was basically a maid to them. Both of them were on-call 24/7 when the family were at home (which, thankfully wasn't that often). In return they got to live in a two-up, two-down, 15th century cottage (none of us can remember if the date stone above the door said 1435, or 1485; it was one of the two). They lived rent free, however they were never paid a wage; their pension was the only funds they had. They also had to pay all of their utility bills. The really sad part is how much my Nanny hated it; she'd gone from living in 2 cities (originally from Birmingham, before moving south to Portsmouth) where she was surrounded by people, her 4 boys, their friends/girlfriends; they took in lodgers at different times, were both from big families themselves (he was one of 13, she one of 11) to it being just the 2 of them, in the middle-of-nowhere. The nearest neighbour was a mile away, the nearest village 6 miles. My Dad was convinced it was living there which saw her pass away at the age of 69. She had no health issues, was fit-as-a-fiddle but just went to bed one night and never woke up again. A great way to go for her. The irony is that whilst she hated being there, I loved being there; a visit to go see them was a real treat (my Dad worked many weekends so rarely got the chance to take us all over as a family so when we got to go we made a proper day of it). I often went with other family members when they were visiting so got to see them quite a bit, and my parents would go during the week whilst me and my brother were at school which meant they got to see them too; it just wasn't ever enough. 

To be a kid allowed to roam so much open space was amazing; alongside the grounds, fields and paddocks, directly outside the back gate were hundreds of acres of woodland. The owners also had several hanger size workshops filled with old cars, motorbikes, jeeps, and pretty much anything mechanical. They didn't care where we went, or what we did, as long as we locked up buildings after being in them and kept the gates to the paddocks closed. Over the years I explored every inch of their grounds. I got to ride a shire horse (wildly entertaining). We went fishing in a pond on a neighbouring property; I spent hours making dens in the woods, picked sloes for my grandad to make some home brew. I saw for the first (and so far, only time) red forked lightning over there. When over there with my cousin we'd climb trees, shell conkers for conker fights, ride his 3 wheel ATC bike thing around - we took out a whole new post-and-rail fence on that thing. I had the time-of-my-life on every single trip over there. Not just because I got to be outdoors doing crazy stuff, but also because I got to spend time with my Nanny, who was just the sweetest lady; she was also an exceptional cook and I enjoyed many helpings of her roast dinners. 

Fast forward 30/40 years and there we were, at the bottom of the long drive which leads up to both properties. I yearned to walk up it, hug the tree where John first kissed me, the tree with the "Drive Slowly, Children Playing" sign nailed to it. I wanted to run across the field, open the side gate, rickety as it was, pushing it back carefully so it never fell off the hinges, before crossing the red brick-paved courtyard. I wanted to unlatch the back door, open it wide and enter the kitchen where my Nanny would either being standing by the sink, or heating something up on the aga and give her the biggest hug, yet  couldn't. They don't live there any more, and I'm not sure the people who owned it when they did are still there, for the main house did go up for sale a few years back. From the drive I could see they cottage has been extended, and another additional extension is in the process of being built; there is also what looks like a 2-bed guest cottage down the bottom of their field; I fear they may have dug up my grandads old sheep dog 'Rebel' to build it; I hope not, and if they did I hope they were kind enough to re-bury him. To see these properties on there was hard; they've taken away the whole character of the place - the high bushes around the main house have also been removed so you can now see it from the bottom of the drive, something you never could before. The pond was gone, and new post-and-rail fencing surrounded the paddocks. Aside from those few things though I could still feel the excitement and love I felt each time we turned into the drive. I could imagine my grandad having the logs piled high in the shed, the aga burner filled to the brim with ones he'd already dried - he never let that fire burn down, even in the middle of summer. That and the fireplace at one end of the living room was the only source of heating in the whole building. The bathroom was furthest away from any source of heat, with it's own red-brick tiling on the floor; permanently cold, even in the midst of summer due to the tick cottage walls, small leaded windows, being north facing and having towering oak trees less than 20 feet away. My Grandad would wheel a small calor gas fire in the bathroom during winter. How he ever survived living there with no heating is beyond me as he'd go to the beach in the middle of summer in a thick layer of jumpers.

I drove away from there talking about my grandparents, my Dad, the fun times we all had over there, the holidays we had thanks to the people they worked for, and I smiled, like I've not smiled for a really long time, because although there is no going back to those times, remembering them reminded me how things have been wonderful before, which means they can always be wonderful again. You cannot live in the past, you shouldn't dwell on it, but my goodness, every-now-and-then go revisit it, remember the good moments, lament the bad, and remind yourself that there is always sun shining somewhere. Dark clouds always blow over eventually. I loved some of the past, I hated some of it to, but without it I'd not have a future to look forward to so I'm going to dip my toes in once-in-a-while for a few hours, then turn myself around and look off into the future. 

Monday, 12 July 2021

They did us proud

The team? Honestly, did they? No, not really; at best they were complacent and mediocre, but we’re not allowed to say that in the world we now live in. We have to praise half hearted displays. Don’t get me wrong; some of our players gave it their all, some of them, obviously favoured by the manager, should never have been in the starting line up. No, I’m not a manager, and while there are plenty of armchair managers who believe they could have done better I am not one of them. What I am though is someone who has spent 5 decades of my life watching football and I have never seen the majority of any England team lack so much passion, drive, or a will to win. Back-in-the-day (I always wondered at what age it would be ok to say that; now I’m obviously at the appropriate age for it just came naturally) Bryan Robson was a quiet man in comparison to many others on the pitch with him, but my goodness he rallied the team when he needed to. He boosted them, pushed them, screamed at them to get the very best out of them, not that he really needed to because back then all the players wanted to play their very best. I’ve not seen our current captain (another seemingly quiet man) give any indication of him doing anything to boost the players around him; the only time he has lead the team is when he’s been at the front of the line as they walk out of the tunnel and onto the pitch. He spent more time in our half than he did in theirs; isn’t a striker meant to be up front? I’m not singling him out to be mean, there were times when he played well. He scored goals to get us to the final and on-the-whole he is a good player; I just feel he isn’t a good leader and every team needs a good leader, someone to step up, take charge and reinvigorate the team around him/her. There is no winning trophy for second place, however, coming second is not quite-so-hard to take if the play has been good and effort has been put into that play. I’d watched the Wimbledon tennis final beforehand; Novak Djokovic beat Matteo Berrettini by 3 sets to 1, but my goodness Berrettini played his heart out and the scoreline most certainly did not reflect how well he played. I wish I could be here, saying the same about the English team, yet I cannot, for they did not play to win. Just look at the stats; we had only one third of the overall possession, and of that third around 90% was played in our own half. For the most part we looked terrified at the thought of pushing forward, and when players did break through, there was never anyone else up front with them to bang the ball in the back of the net; they were all still in their own half trying to catch up. I’ve seen some beautiful football played throughout the tournament, and there have been moments (our goal yesterday - scored from good football and players pushing forwards) of utter brilliance. When Saka has been on the pitch he has run his little heart out. He is one to watch in the future and reminds me of Des Walker from back-in-the-day (twice in one paragraph). When he picks up the ball on that left side, he takes it, he runs with it and he can chip over some beautiful balls; sadly there’s never anyone in the goal area ready to knock it in. We played with 3 up front last night and still there was never anyone in the box to score. Grealish and Foden; oh my word, if they’d been allowed to play (although I believe Foden is holding an injury) teamed up with Saka, Henderson and Rashford, we could have been looking at a totally different score today. We could have been looking at a winning team. I don’t know why Gareth Southgate chose not to play them more during the tournament, I just hope, going forward, he looks at them and gives them the chances they deserve. If they’re not match fit, or are flagging by the middle of the second half, then take them off and bring on someone with a bit more experience or a few more hours under their belt, but give us some hope to begin with. At least they looked as though they wanted to be there, like they wanted to win, and they are players who did try to make us proud over the course of the tournament, when they were allowed to play. The majority of the other players seemed disinterested and lacklustre, as if they believed it their right to win the game so they didn’t need to put in any effort. I genuinely don’t understand the hype around Sterling. I think I must have watched different games to all those I saw praising him because I saw him give away more balls than anyone else, and he has obviously been taking lessons from Tom Daley when it comes to diving. I don’t like to see that. That’s definitely not something to be proud of. 

For those who missed penalties my heart breaks. I cannot even begin to imagine how they felt at the time, and how they are going to feel for weeks to come. I hope they can take heart that even the very best of players throughout the history of the sport have missed at times and under far less pressure than they were. The game should never have got to that stage for them to have been in such a position.

Once again, the Italians proved what dirty players they are. In all my years I’ve never seen them once play a game where they’ve not tried to take out other players and where Sterling has been taking lessons from Daley, the Italians could definitely teach Tom a thing, or 2; they’ve always been that way. I’ve never known them to be any different, and the tackles on Saka and Grealish were disgusting. There should be no place in modern-day football for such play. For both players to be on the pitch after was quite shocking and poor refereeing. Earlier in the game Sterling had been shoved 2 handed as well; the ref appeared to miss that!

i do find myself getting pissed off with the prawn sandwich brigade who were sitting at home constantly tweeting about opposition players being booed for they have obviously never attended a football game before, and really do need to have spent some time at (or watching from your armchair) before commenting. It’s something which has happened at every-single-game I have ever been too/watched, and not just by us. At points last night the Italians were booing, yet nobody seemed to pick up on that! However, booing the National Anthem of another country is not sportsmanlike and there was no need for it - although, yet again, I have seen games where the opposition have been on their home ground and booed our anthem, so that’s not just an English fan thing to do.

Ahh, the English “fan”. I’m not even sure where to start with them. If the team didn’t do us proud, the “supporters” most definitely did not. Actually, I can’t say that; most people were there to watch a game of football. Most people there were fans of the game. Sadly, the inbred, low-life pond scum element also found their way in, and because of them, all of us this morning, fans and non-fans alike, are being viewed by the rest of the world as the lowest of the low. 

I’m not going to share photo’s like many others have done with regards to what these despicable creatures did, the state they left areas of London (and other cities) in, because I refuse to give them credence or publicity. I’m not going to share the names of the utterly disgusting things that hit the social media comments section of Saka, Rashford and Sancho’s twitter and instagram. I hope that the police note every single vile comment, the name of every despicable thing that said such things and they are banging on their front doors right now. May they be infested with the fleas of a thousand dogs. Racist thugs hiding behind computer screens deserve no place in society; they should be rounded up and forced to clean toilets with a toothbrush for the next decade. Better still, bring back the stocks and sit these things in them for several days. They won’t think themselves so tough then. Utterly shameful behaviour that the rest of the world is watching. We were hated enough before yesterday; today though I pretty much think we are the most despised country in the world. It is always the few who ruin it for the many, but we must now start taking action against these few. Mind you the Australian newspaper with the headline “Three black players failed in the penalty shoot out which England lost 3 - 2 to Italy”. Really? Why, just why would you make that your headline? Sadly, more fuel has been added to the fire though by a black guy now saying that "ALL white people" are racist. It's never going to end until we can all accept that there is good, and bad, in every single race and nationality on the planet. What we need to be doing is stamping on those who are, not tarring everyone with the same brush because of the colour of our skin.

People are asking why the same police force who brutally manhandled women who were taking part in a peaceful candlelight vigil for a woman who had been raped, just stood back and watched while thugs rampaged through the streets of London. One obvious answer is because it’s easier; manhandling a few women out of the way takes less effort than dealing with a handful of beered up thugs. It’s easy to blame the police as-a-whole, but yet again, it is the few who are ruining it for the many. Not all in the force are arseholes, although (sadly) it does appear these days there are more bad than good, however, part of the problem is the government has depleted our forces so badly we are down to a bare minimum. I live in a town in the middle of 2 cities and there’s not a single police station open 24/7 any more. I saw several cars when the building at the end of the road I work on was raided a while back and was genuinely surprised we had so many still in operation. 

For Boris Johnson, the man in charge of this shit pile country right now to have said it was "ok" for the dickwads to be booing our playing when they took the knee before each game, to now come out and say he's disappointed in our players receiving such awful racist comments is just utterly unbelievable. The bumbling buffoon has actively encouraged and incited this vile behaviour by saying previously it was "ok". He has already turned this country into a laughing stock among the rest of the world; best he keeps his trap shut from now on.

I don’t know what it is about (mainly) men in this country when it comes to football and beer. Why it is we cannot seem to do anything, go anywhere, without behaving in a despicable fashion?. You just don’t see that level of antisocial behaviour in other countries throughout the world. Seeing men with their beer bellies hanging out, downing pints and behaving like thugs on the continent, the same thugs who took over our streets yesterday just seems to accepted as part of our culture. Why do we appear to be the only ones in the world who behave like this, and how do we stop it? 

I used to be proud to be English, I used to fly my flag with pride during tournaments, dressing my shop window in red and white when we played. We get no choice on where we are born, however, right now I’m deeply ashamed to call myself English, and to be a part of a country that can behave in such a way. I’m disappointed that the flag of St George has been hijacked by wanton racist thugs - although maybe, deep down it’s always been that way; we’ve not been the nicest of countries throughout the centuries. I was wondering if it’s time to cash-in on my American and Polish heritage! Mind you, when it comes to racism the American’s aren’t any better and the Poles have problems with (believe it-or-not) racist football fans, among rising racism throughout the general population, so I guess the issue is worldwide (or I’m just unlucky enough to be borne of such heritage). That doesn’t help right now though, being English, and seeing what I have been seeing. 

As for football; The only way to go some way towards stopping it is with bans. I think we should be banned - all English clubs, not just the England team - from playing in any tournament (Euro’s, World Cup, Champions League etc) and we should not be allowed to host any games over here for a decade. Pubs, clubs and other venues (including outdoor ones like those set up in Trafalgar Square) should not be allowed to show football on their screens. If we are allowed to continue playing in tournaments then all english fans should be banned from attending. Anyone found to have been involved in the shitstorm yesterday/last night should have their passports revoked for a decade too, meaning they cannot travel outside of the UK for any reason. Yes, it would take a lot of manpower but we have the technology these days to track down this scum.. Time to make an example of them. Same with the keyboard racists. They should be tracked down, their passports revoked, and as I said above, build some new stocks and shove them in them. Pretty sure one guy who has been outed will find himself out of a job today, as he was stupid enough to have the company he works for on his twitter account. Anyone losing their jobs as a result of their behaviour should not receive any government help, or benefits for 6 months. Maybe, just maybe, we might go someway to putting a lid on it. 

They did us proud? I think NOT.