Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Ghost of Christrmas Past

My memory contains huge holes. I know why. It's protection, it's what brains do in the face of trauma, they edit out stuff. Sadly as well as the painful, the sad and the difficult, they sometimes erase the good as well.

Christmas in Australia is so different to here. Here Christmas marks the start of winter and is the last good thing to happen until Easter. In Australia Christmas marks the start of summer and is just the beginning of a long summer of holidays, trips to the beach, swimming and fun.

The smell of Christmas is what I remember the most. Eucalyptus, dust, the sunshine emphasising the scents of summer. I would look forward to the food, groaning tables of cold meat and salad, new potatoes, fresh fruit, my aunt's icecream bombe.

And Nana. Always Nana. I know one or two of my early Christmases would have been spent at the farm. My grandparents had a sheep farm in Lilydale northern Tasmania, not far from Launceston where I chose to do my degree.

When  first started counselling late last year my counsellor would ask me for a safe place to go if it got hard. I chose my grandmother's kitchen  at the farm. Strangely though I remember her every day cooking I don't remember Christmas at the farm at all. I remember vague anxiety that father Christmas may not be able to find us there, though he certainly did.

I remember Nana's gifts. I have some of them now, sadly not all. One of the things my first husband used to do was destroy things close to me, and her books to me were often a target. I still have A Child's Garden of Verses and read them to Joseph. She often bought me the Children's Book of the Year, my favourite author was Colin Thiele, and my favourite book of his was The Valley Between, which was just so funny.

Nana sometimes bought us jewellery, often she'd have something extra for me. We were extraordinarily close. She used to take us to the movies, I have fond memories of her taking us to the Star Wars sagas and removing her hearing aids!

When I was seven they sold the farm, moving to Hobart, not just to be closer to her family, both my mum and my uncle lived in Hobart, some 200 kiometres away from Lilydale. Christmases now are clearer. Usually we would go to either my aunt and uncles or have to at ours, alternating. In the morning we'd whizz over to Mornington to swap presents with the grandparents, then go back in the evening for a meal. My nana would set up a buffet table in the back bedroom with sandwiches, sweets and cake. 

I remember Nana as a small, kind old lady, yet she was only 79 when she died. I was just 19. I was living in a lovely sharehouse with two amazing girls, Christina and Jodie. They wrapped me in love and kindness and cared for me dearly. I loved that house, there we were all safe. Then everything changed. Christina got married, Jodie dropped out of university, and later sadly died. That house on Mangan street could well have been the safe place in my memory, with its rotary clothesline, funny little laundry room with the bright yellow floor and a dated kitchen that now would be considered charmingly retro.

Now the Christmases I have with my son are so different. Yesterday there was no family to visit. A fleeting FaceTime with his grandparents and cousins in Germany. No whizzing around trying to fit everyone in.

After my grandfather died my Nana moved in with us and became an integral part of our every day lives. Our bond grew even closer. She taught me about faith, love, embroidery, cooking. I looked up to her so much. She was truly an amazing woman. When she died the house was filled with cards, letters and flowers.

She touched the life of everyone who crossed her path, she was amazing.

She's my ghost of Christmas past.

And I miss her. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Seven Top Tips to the Perfect Christmas Pavlova

Once upon a time when I wanted inspiration for what to cook I would open one of my cookbooks and look inside. Now I tend to turn to Pinterest where I found this amazing looking object and pinned it. I am, like many others I suppose, somewhat guilty of pinning and never making but this time I was committed to giving this a try.

Now where I'm from Pavlova is a traditional thing, usually made in a disk, I've never seen it with a hole in the middle. In our family one of our Christmas traditions is to have a small pudding, often a Legacy one, or from the local CWA shop (equivalent to the WI). Australian puddings are different a little to here, cooked in a calico cloth, and boiled rather than steamed. Alongside this we serve a cold dessert.

We had our extended famiy from my husband's side over this weekend and I decided to cook this amazing confection for dessert. Here are the step by step pictures.

Here are my additional tips for the perfect pavlova.

1. Know your oven. Pavlovas like a steady low heat, there are several methods my preferred one is the overnight method, heat your oven to 250 degrees whilst you make your pavlova, turn the oven off then leave it overnight.

2. Go electric. I am fortunate to have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, I used to have a Kenwood which was just as good. You can use a hand held electric beater with good effect, as long as you have a nice big bowl. Don't be tempted to try a handwhisk. I am sure it can be done, but its probably best to make something else!

3. Allow plenty of time. Whatever oven method you use the pavlova must cool in the oven, you will stress it out and make it cry if you move it when hot (seriously it will weep). If you need a dessert in a hurry, make something else.

4. Beat well after addition of sugar. You must add the sugar slowly and beat well after each addition. If you don't the crystals of sugar will remain large and will contribute to weeping, as they will melt as the pavlova cools.

5. Cracking is normal Some cracking is inevitable. That's why pavlovas are covered in cream and fruit!

6. Pavlovas are soft and marshmallowey in the middle A lot of cooks cook the pavlova so its like a French Meringue, but a soft squidgy interior is, in my opinion, the desired result.

7. Don't add flavouring to the pavlova mix With many things I experiment with Pavlova I am a purist. No greated chocolate, no nuts, no nothing in the actual meringue mix. Go crazy with toppings and the cream filling if you wish.

As its included in the original recipe I didn't include it as a tip, but it is essential your eggs are at room temperature. Fridge cold eggs will not get enough volume and your pavlova won't be successful. 

The pavlova following this recipe came out perfectly. I think the wreath formation encouraged more even cooking, and I was very impressed with the result, as were the guests. And everyone cleared their plates.

I hope this has encouraged you to try something different this Christmas. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

On Coming Out

I was 19. I was busy with boys, after not having a boyfriend up until the age of 18 I was starting to date and explore the world. A good friend of mine who I had known for three years asked me out one day. We had a lovely date, and he held my hand. We went for a walk in the evening light to the park and he kissed me. It was weird. There was no real chemistry between us, our friendship was a good one but there was nothing else there, I thought.

As we sat on a park bench he started talking about his hopes for us. Marriage, good jobs, having children, growing old together, I was like "woah woah woah". This was totally strange, 0-60 in 20 seconds, he'd never really shown interest in me romantically. Anyway, he kissed me goodnight and went home. A couple of days later he came around to my parents house.

"I have something I need to tell you", he said. "It's not you, it's me". I looked at him, his face red, tears in his eyes. "I do really like you, but um....." He paused, "I like boys more".

I smiled and hugged him. I wished him well, I asked about what was happening. He had met a boy but wanted to see if he could make himself be straight. Thankfully he was quick in realising that he had to follow his heart, it could have been a lot worse.

This occasion was the second time this had happened to me, there were was one more occasion too. Young men in Tasmania felt pressured to be something other than who they were. 

You see in the early 1990's in Tasmania being gay was illegal. I remember the rhetoric well. "It isn't illegal to be gay, just anal sex is illegal". "You can be gay, just don't sleep with anyone".

Fortunately law reform happened after much blood, sweat and tears.

When the news about Tom Daley was released yesterday I felt overwhelming sadness that sexual preference is still seen by many as a very. big. deal. I was heartened that a lot of people said "who cares as long as he's happy".

I wish we lived in a world where "coming out" wasn't necessary, that everyone was free to discover their sexuality. Where sports stars felt free to just be themselves. I fear the reaction from the press in this country will impede others from living their lives true to themselves. We are yet to see a Premiership footballer "come out", stigma still looms.

This post from Simon Blake of Brook Charity is a brilliant one and I suggest you read it. 

I hope social media continues to help enable all of us to express ourselves and tell the world about our true selves. And I hope we are ready to support one another and make this easier.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

On My New Beading Obsession

This year has been one of learning, and one of the big things I have learnt is the art of self care. I found myself with a large amount of annual leave to take so have got this week off. I wanted to do something positive for myself that was cheap, fun, and engaging. 

I love crafts. I used to do a lot, folk art painting, embroidery, crazy patchwork, beading. Over the years my wrists have got quite weak, and I find a lot of crafts quite hard to do now. I thought I'd give Hama beads a try, after seeing my friend Merry's pinterest boards. You can purchase bead supplies directly from her too.

I wasn't sure how I'd get on with them, so I started with a £5 pot from IKEA, these have proven to be quite good, and have now done an order with Craft Merrily as the Hama melt better, and are of a better quality, but the IKEA ones were great to practice with.

I'm going to visit my best friend Daniel soon and not one to go empty handed, wanted to take some presents. I'd normally bake or make chocolates, but Daniel is on a soft diet and has turned his nose up at my suggestions of white chocolate and cranberry shakes or carrot and ginger soup! Daniel is a geek and wanted some geeky decorations for Christmas to balance out the hideous singing decorations his mum and nurse love!

I started out with Pacman

These were nice and easy and I found some great patterns on Pinterest. 

Next I tackled the Avengers.

One of Daniel's favourite programs of all time is The Big Bang Theory so I thought I'd make him Sheldon.

But then Sheldon looked awfully lonely. There were patterns for Penny, Howard and Raj so I made them, but Sheldon needs Amy, so I had a play and came up with my own design. Then a Twitter friend quite rightly pointed out there needed to be a Bernadette so again I had a play and designed her too!

Finally, not to be left out I made myself a little series too.

I've made all these over the space of two days, they are a great activity to do on your own or with little people. I've really enjoyed it and have collected loads of ideas on my Pinterest board

I hope I've inspired you to give it a try!

Monday, 25 November 2013

On Having Purple Hair

I am very conservative with my hair. Actually all of my appearance really. I like to blend in , not stand out. I really wanted to do something fun for World Prematurity Day which was a couple of weeks ago now, so I decided to dye my hair purple.

It was a big commitment as I had to go blonde first for the purple to take. I still haven't really decided what I'm going to do long term and I really miss my boring brown hair!

What's been interesting is people's reactions. I like to blend in, not stand out. People have treated me really differently. Strangers, especially men, talk to me, asking me how I got my hair so bright, and interested in me as a person too. Really odd.

Some people have ignored me, old ladies in particular, and also the Somalian families in the playground. Something worth remembering as I want to travel to Ghana next year and will need to be a bit more sedate for that, I feel.

Being different isn't a bad thing, of course it's great in lots of ways, but it has been a big adjustment and I'm still not sure I like it. 

I think I've decided to get it cut into a bob then have the colour corrected, but I'm not ready yet, I'm enjoying life as an indie rock chick with purple hair!

This year has been one of huge change, and self realisation. Therapy has been the making of me, and I have new confidence and self assuredness. There is a way to go yet, but I feel I am making progress to becoming the me I want to be.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Thing about Mental Health

We think. We reason. We emote. We believe. We hope. We dream. We fantasise. We relate. We talk. We listen.

All of these things we do with our minds.

The thing about mental health, having a healthy mind is we never really think about it. About our mental health.

We might think about our physical health, and take vitamins, exercise, concentrate on our diet, see a doctor if things are not right.

But the thing about our mental health is that we really don't think about it.

Until it's going. Or gone.

We can't reason. Our fantasies are blurred with reality. We can't sleep. We have nightmares. We have panic attacks. We just cannot stop crying. We are happy one minute in the depths of despair the next. Sometimes we feel we cannot go on.

Sometimes we can't. Sometimes we hurt ourselves. Rarely we hurt others, not directly.

Sorting out our mental health isn't easy. Trial and error. Medication. Self care. Talking therapy. More.

Maybe we could prevent mental health problems if we could just talk.

But there is stigma.

There are stupid people out there who do not understand that like cancer is cells gone mad, mental health problems are chemicals misfiring, pathways disturbed.

Mental health problems are not the fault of the sufferer.

Mental health problems rarely make someone dangerous to others.

Mental health problems hurt. Such deep pain that is often unfathomable. Patterns of behaviour develop that can take years to correct. Or might never be corrected.

Care, love, support, true friendship, this is what can ease a mental health problem.

Talk about it.

It's time to talk

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The End and The Beginning - Therapy

In October 2012 I told the world that I had been sexually abused as a child. It was a huge decision to make, and I chose to blog about it in the post Jimmy Savile is Dead. 

Several people helped me in writing and forming the post, most notably Daniel, at the time a close friend, now my best friend. 

I made mistakes. The abuser told me my parents knew but didn't care. They didn't. Know, that is. At all. I blogged about it before discussing it with them. This was clearly a huge error on my part, I should have talked to them first.

After the publication of the post it was clear I needed help and found Jo a person centred counsellor. The sessions were great and really helped me, they ended when I left my job, just after Christmas. I thought I was better but then Easter came and my world fell apart.

I started having intrusive thoughts, thoughts of suicide, I started thinking about how I would do it, wondering who would take care of Joseph and my husband but convinced that it all had become too much and I would never get better. I was bereft.

I went to my GP who missed how poorly I was and told me to arrange something privately. I wasn't thinking straight and it was very hard to do. After a false start I found my psychologist.

At first the sessions were just "getting to know you" and unpicking what had happened. And then we started getting deeper into my past. I started to feel like crap. Then Britmums came and I read Jimmy Savile is Dead to a full room of hundreds of people. I had my photo shoot with Yuri at Urbanvox which was amazing, but the crash came. I couldn't stop crying it had all been too much. I felt exposed, frightened and overwhelmed.

Therapy commenced again and I worked hard. My therapist had recommended a book called Breaking Free  which I started working through bit by bit. It was hard, but it really helped me realise a few key points.

* My abuser sought me out to abuse. I didn't make him do it. He had the desire to abuse before he met me. There was nothing wrong with me, it was not my fault.

* I was vulnerable, I was a child, I had no friends when I was 3 because I hadn't formed friendships yet. My mum and dad worked hard, he had opportunity to seek me out.

* At school I had learned to cover up the signs to some extent, but that there were some that should have been picked up, the fact that they weren't wasn't my fault.

* The abuse made me perceive some things that happened at high school in particular incorrectly. Whilst I was bullied to an extent, I over reacted and some of it was just normal boyish behaviour that I perceived as threatening. This wasn't my fault either.

* That sex is something I became proficient at because it was protection, and that love and friendship scare me, as I dont really understand them correctly, and this will take time to fix.

* That pleasure of all kinds is frightening, and feels risky and scary, and this will also take time to fix. I am starting by doing small things like baking, or walking with Joseph in the autumn leaves.

My therapist felt that I was ready to leave after 13 sessions. I can go back if I need to, but I am hoping it won't be necessary.

It feels strange, it being over. I am missing my sessions, talking to someone completely outside my life who can be objective. I found the sessions enjoyable towards the end.

It will never be over for me. I will always feel sad, scared and regretful. But I am stronger now, I realise a lot of the patterns, thoughts and feelings I have had were wrong or unhelpful. I can put these right slowly but surely.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

You Are Worthless

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I have blogged on my other space Not Even A Bag of Sugar .

This post is deeply personal and a hard one to write. Please approach with caution as it may trigger thoughts of your own. There are lots of sources of support, your GP, health professionals, Mind Charity, The Samaritans. If you feel low, get help. Don't suffer in silence.

There is a voice in my head. Sometimes it sounds like my mother, sometimes like him, sometimes its my own voice, or a teacher. Sometimes I can't even tell who it is. At times its a chorus.

Sometimes it whispers, I have to listen very carefully. Sometimes it shouts. At times its not even words, its a just a noise in my head like a boiler on the blink or a fridge that is a bit too old.

I've lived with this relentless voice since I was 3. It told me always to sleep with my face covered. It told me I had to sleep with a teddy bear. It told me never ever to sleep with my bottom uncovered. I always wore pants to bed. I still do. I still sleep with a bear. If I don't bad things will happen.

The voice is accusatory. "You think you can get through this do you? You think you are better than M or C or F? They are not here anymore I beat them. I will beat you too, just you see."

I hear of a mother committing suicide, severe PND and the voice comes in, "she couldn't get through it, your past is much more tortured than hers you can't get through it either, just do everyone a favour, do the decent thing".

I live with this voice. Not every day, it peaks and troughs.

It reached a crescendo at Easter. It yelled at me every day. I got to the end. It told me I was a rubbish wife, a crap mother, that I was dragging everyone down with me, including my best friend. It told me enough was enough. I had reached the end.

I finally confided in my husband, my friend and my friend's mother. I finally broke down to my GP and begged for help. It was bloody hard. NHS wouldn't fund, and I had to find sources of funding myself. The voice loved that "No one wants to help you, you can't do this"

I found a therapist.

It took me 7 weeks but I finally told my therapist. "I hear voices".

He said "yes, as a survivor of abuse that's normal".


He then said "you choose, you can either engage with them, or you can dismiss them. They have nothing of value to say."


They have nothing of value to say.


"Voice, shut up, you have nothing of value to say and I don't need to listen to this. Go away".

It sounds simple.

It isn't. It's like standing up to a bully, an abuser. It takes strength and courage.

But that doesn't need to come from me. It comes from my husband, my son, my best friend, my other friends, my beautiful blogging community.

I don't have to do this alone.

And neither do you.

You are not alone.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Pleasure and Pain

The thing is this blog post is about sex. I don't talk about sex. I'm starting to try but its hard for me, so bear with me.

Up until this weekend I always thought I enjoyed sex. Well not disliked it. It's never really been top of my agenda, but its been ok.  I've had some good experiences. That I could count on two hands. I'm 41 and been sexually active for 20 years. That isn't good is it?

I don't enjoy sex. I always thought I did. My men often say how good I am at certain things. I get pleasure from sex pretty much the same way I do from baking....making other people happy. My own happiness doesn't come into it. And that makes me sad.

My relationships last on average for 7 years or so. And I think, although other things are at play that my failure to be able to enjoy a sexual relationship has to be a major factor.

I've learnt to block the images from my childhood. I was sexually abused from the age of 3 until around 12. In my first marriage, before I'd disclosed my past to anyone, it loomed large. My husband was pushy, demanding, and difficult. He was also tied up with his own guilt that he was a sexual person, and he wanted much more than I could give. He was a complex person and without going into detail, not today, the police were involved and I was moved to a safe house with pretty much what I could get out in an afternoon with a police escor

I've had three serious relationships since then. My first was a guy my own age, 26, who happened to be a virgin. He also had a medical condition which caused low tesosterone. We had a lovely relationship but it was more like a close friendship. When sex did happen it was lovely and undemanding.

My next was with a man 21 years my senior. Again, the sex was ok, but nothing spectacular, no experimenting nothing like that, it was adequate, and then it stopped, and then I left.

And now I find myself in a marriage where I am happy but I can't give myself fully. And I wonder what I do to fix this? I need to learn to experience pleasure and not flee from it, not close off in my bubble whilst he gets on with it. Sex should be a mutual thing shouldn't it? 

And its not fear exactly. It's a deeply held belief that sex is for the pleasure of the man.

I cannot believe I actually think that! And I'm going to set back the cause of feminism 100 years. I feel sex is something to be endured not enjoyed.

Where do I go from here?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Bravery - Beechwood Cancer Care

As part of the process of recovering from child abuse I decided to have a naked photo shoot done. It was something I felt I needed to do. I had always planned to have a bump shoot done, but of course, didn't get that far. I never felt I wanted to celebrate after Joseph was born, I wish I had. When I look at my dear friend Kimberley's pictures I kick myself for not having done it when Joseph was small.

When I decided to get my kit off, it was important that it was more than just about me. I also wanted to support a charity. I thought long and hard about which charity to support. To me it had to be a charity that symbolised bravery. And it had to be an adult oriented charity. I turned to Twitter and was struck by Beechwood Cancer Care based in Stockport.

 When my mother had cancer, complimentary therapies, yoga, relaxation and spending time with other people on the same journey was essential and as instrumental in her recovery as the surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

I'd love you to give a little (or a lot) to this wonderful charity. For every £500 I reach in donation I'll post another picture, culminating on being featured on Naked Mums in September.

Having this shoot done was a huge milestone for me. Yuri at Urbanvox made me feel so comfortable, and it was actually great fun. 

You can donate to Beechwood Cancer Care Centre here.

Thank you

Sunday, 14 July 2013

10 Songs to Silence the Voices

One of the things that I have always turned to is music. When I was 6 my primary school announced they were going to have music classes, violin classes, but you had to sit an audition. I was terrified, I knew nothing about music, but I needed to learn the violin. I had this strong urge that knowing how to play music would help me. So I sat the exam. And I did brilliantly. I started violin lessons.

This piece, Bach Minuet in G Minor was the first proper piece I ever learned. I would play it over and over again, even now, although I haven't played in many years, I bet I could still get the tune out. Here is my list of the top 10 songs or pieces I turn to, and you can find the playlist here

1. Gopuru - Gurrumul

This song is just like a aural hug, the words are so soothing, Geoffrey's voice is just the most beautiful instrument I have ever heard.

2. Ben Harper - Whipping Boy

The first time I heard this song was in the 90s, covered by an Australian band for a tv mini series about a child abuse ring. It just really hit me in the heart, and when the voices are getting at me, it helps.

3. Johnny Cash/Marilyn Manson/Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus

It really depends on what the voice is saying and what mood I am in which version of this song I reach for. The Johnnyy Cash version is probably the most spiritual but when I really angry Marilyn Manson really works for me!

4. Tears for Fears - Shout

I have chosen the 2012 version for my playlist because its so powerful. I was 12 when I first heard this song. The lyrics really spoke to me. The abuse was just coming to an end, the bullying was at its worse, I felt powerless and a lot of the time scared and angry. "I hope we live to tell the tale" with "shout shout let it all out" on top of it just meant so much to me.

5. Electric Light Orchestra - Don't Bring Me Down

This is a really hard song to include on this list. ELO was played a lot in the abusers house and this song was played when things were happening. But for some reason, this song always helps. I think the driving nature of it just kept me going. But at certain times ELO can make the voice much worse.

6. Supertramp - Its Raining Again

This is another difficult inclusion, as this song was another from that era. I remember it most in the car, with mum and dad, and singing it always made me feel better. I do love songs where the lyrics and the music are a bit mismatched!

7. Sinead O'Connor - Troy

My sister introduced me to Sinead O'Connor, and I could have chosen many of her songs, but this one really does help, with its quiet beginning and reaching a stunning crescendo, then coming back down again.  One of the reasons I love it so is the orchestration. As a teenager I was in the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra and there is nothing so powerful as to be part of something like that, when you work as a team and create a wall of sound.

8. Hunters and Collectors - True Tears of Joy

This was my band, from the first time I heard the, Hunters and Collectors became the soundtrack of my life, I owned every album and ep, I went to see them 3 times in concert. This song is probably the most apt for me and silencing those voices, the lyrics are amazing. "your thoughts are scattered like paper everywhere tiny pieces of laughter and despair"

9 Bernard Fanning - Watch Over Me

I went home to Australia in 2006 and heard this song for the first time. The lyrics just spoke to my heart, and whilst this is  a prayer, its almost like a song to my nana. "Tell me you'll always be there to pull me free". There's also a special friend this song reminds me of to. "You brought me round, your humble way".

10. Black Sabbath - Anno Mundi

When I was at university my friend Amanda introduced me to the TYR album. Sometimes the best thing to silence the voices is a long, self indulgent metal track and this is the one I choose. Must be played loud and really give those voices a kicking.

What music silences your voices?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

I Have a Voice in my Head

I hear voices. But I'm not crazy.
The voice is relentless. When I have a flare up.
Most of the time its silent, but boy when it has something to say it just won't shut up.
"pathetic, you can't do this, you think you can get better, you think you can heal, but you can't"
"you are worthless, this was your fault. You deserved what I did to you, you are dirty, you are damaged"
"you can't achieve anything, I put paid to that, you will never achieve your goals you will always be a loser"
"you are a pathetic friend, a useless wife, a rotten mother. How could you even think for a moment you could have a family and make it work?"
"just stop kidding yourself, get a care job, go back to being a nobody, finish this now"

I told my therapist today about the voices. He said something that stuck in my head.
"stop listening to it, it has nothing of value to say". Nothing. Of. Value. To. Say.
I have been listening to the voice, thinking that maybe I can find some truth, something to help me.
He also told me something else. Most abuse victims hear the voice.
I am not crazy. I am not alone. I am, um er, normal. Well as normal as can be.

He told me to choose. To treat the voice like a bully. There is a time to engage, to fight, there is also a time to ignore.
He also told me to find balance, to find positive voices. Like my Nana. Her soft gentle voice telling me she believes in me. That I can do anything. That I can save the world, one heart at a time.
I can make a difference.
Today is the day.
Today is the day I tell that voice it has no place now, I know what its trying to do.
And it won't win.

I will win.

I am winning.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Happiness is looking at my daisies in the garden.
Singing "hakuna matata" with my little boy.
Crocheting a blanket for my best friend.
Meeting work colleagues for lunch and having a giggle.
Reading recipe books and planning meals.
Walking to the park and patting dogs.
Reading a magazine with the cat on my knee.
Hanging the washing out listening to the neighbour's little girl giggling.

Happiness exists.
Where there is fear, and sorrow, happiness still exists.
Sadness and happiness are not opposites, you can be enveloped in one and still feel the other.

In therapy we talk about "self care". To me "self care" is about finding happiness, about keeping balance. Therapy is tough. When we talk about things I have pushed aside for over 30 years, its painful. Old wounds reopened, friendships I have lost, family relationships fractured, its very hard to bring those things out and deal with them.

It can threaten to overwhelm.

To me "self care" is making time for the things that bring me into the present. That remind me life, although its been hard, is unbelievably beautiful and happiness is all around.

Sometimes you just have to look really hard, dig really deep and ask for some help to find it.

Friday, 5 July 2013

On Being a Survivor

Almost two weeks ago I read "Jimmy Savile is Dead" to an audience of 500 people. The last two weeks have been tough and I really need to share my thoughts.

Being a survivor of child abuse
Means the childhood I never really had is never really over
Every happy memory has a sad one attached to it
I close my eyes I see things that stopped a long time ago
But in my head have never really stopped
Smells trigger me, the smell of cut grass in the sunshine leads to lawnmowers and two-stroke fuel, and those greasy smelly hands of him.
Lavender in my garden reminds me of nana, my safe place, my safe person, but she has gone.
Freshly baked bread, the farmhouse kitchen where I felt safe, but always had to leave, to go back home.

I keep busy, but I can't focus
I feel angry but I am impotent.
I cry, but it doesn't help, as no one truly understands
I want to talk to other people who can relate
But their own pain and suffering makes my own worse and the whole thing even more unbearable.
I try and hide from the news but it is everywhere.
I try and take comfort in my own son and absorb myself in him, but the fear of this happening to him just won't leave me.
His age haunts me, the age where I lost my childhood. 
There is no comfort in anything, everything makes me sad, or angry or frightened.
I still have so much fear.
Yet everyone uses words like strong and brave, and I feel anything but.
The person close to me cannot bear to be with me, there is talk of separation, of having time out.
There is so much to bear
And my shoulders aren't as broad as they appear to be.

 And I just really want this to be over now.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Rock Bottom

I think I have reached it.

I have been having therapy for about a month and have had to take a three week break, it couldn't be avoided due to Britmums and my husband going away so no child care, and then my therapist going away, but the bottom of the rock has been reached.

It's hit me just how much I have gone through, the abuse, the bullying, the miscarriages, the marriage break up, this week should be my 20th wedding anniversary and I should have an 18 year old and a 15 year old with me. And this time 4 years ago Joseph still had 3 weeks left in hospital and I remain stuck in the Premmie Game.

I just don't even know where to start. Everything is upsetting me. I was at my best friend's house this weekend and heard a snippet of a song and burst into tears. Painful memories flooding back old ones and more recent ones.

I am so bone crushingly tired but am sleeping ok, I can't imagine sleeping any more than I am doing. I just feel a deep fatigue in my brain and heart.

I feel sad, angry, happy, scared, confident in equal measures. My poor brain feels like a computer working overtime.

My husband is away on a stag do for 5 days and I miss him, and feel angry too. It's a long time to be away on a jolly leaving me with Joseph and work.

I just want to find my happy place and be able to relax a bit and sort this brain of mine out.

Monday, 6 May 2013

A Gardens Yarn Bomb

At Christmas time my best friend Daniel needed a hat for his doll limited edition Big Bang Theory Sheldon figuirine. So I knitted him hat and a scarf. Thus started the germ of an idea.

Daniel has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). I met him on Twitter because I am nosey and wanted to see how these guys were using social media and Daniel and I started becoming good friends, and then best friends. DMD isn't what defines Daniel, and to be honest, I completely forget he has it. However facts are facts. Duchenne is an incurable life limiting condition.

I have chosen The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign as they work with a number of conditions, fund research but also campaigning and support.

I hate Duchenne. I was 7 when I met my first friend with Duchenne. One of the guys I worked with in care had Duchenne, he died in his early 20s leaving his family and friends devastated. I know there are cures and treatments for Duchenne. I know there are. We need more research to find these cures and treatments, and sadly research largely has to be funded by charity.  But also, boys and girls with Duchenne need ongoing good quality medical care and opportunities to shine, this all costs money and it also means a lot of campaigning. I am passionate about finding a cure, but also about ensuring us as a society support people with all forms of muscular conditions to live happy and fulfilling lives.

So I have this mad idea to decorate an area of Manchester in knitting and crochet. I would love as many people as possible to get involved, and have already had some gorgeous submissions which I will showcase in the coming weeks.

It doesn't matter how proficient you are, an absolute beginner or a skilled craftsperson. I am actually a beginner myself. The beauty of this project is I can use anything. If its holey, too tight, too lose, a bit wonky, it doesn't matter.

I have a Pinterest board with ideas and patterns please have a look and feel free to request to be made a contributor.

Items will be sold on the day, which will be in mid August, and also if you could ask your friends to sponsor you that would be great. My sponsorship page can be found here

Please keep following for more updates, and maybe even a tutorial or two!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

An Absolute Joke - Sentencing of Child Sex Offenders

I really wanted to swear on the title of this post. I blogged about the tragic death of Frances Andrade here. 

Frangipani for Frances Andrade

Clearly, with my personal journey at the moment, triggered by the stories of adults coming forward about the abuse they suffered as children, this story was always going to be close to my heart. I am on somewhat of a media blackout at the moment as I seek further treatment and support.

I was on a tube platform when I saw the news, over the shoulder on someone else's copy of a free newspaper, that Frances Andrade's abuser had been sentenced. I held my breath.

6 fucking years. 6 years. She's dead! Dead! Because the trauma of court was too much for her to bear and he gets six years. It gets worse though. The judge describes him as a predatory sex offender and in his opinion he is still a threat, yet he gets six years. And six years of what? A life in prison yes, but treatment? Therapy? Probably not. He'll come out in pretty the much the same way he went in. A predatory sex offender who is such a danger to young girls, that as adults they are so traumatised they kill themselves.

What a fucking joke this system is. He serves half of this sentence in prison and the rest on licence. 3 years in jail.

This guy's wife, as the judge describes, had a sexual agenda of her own and got 21 months. Her solicitor said this "Mrs Brewer's Christian faith has remained a mainstay in her life. The guilt she feels in playing any part in the demise of Frances Andrade is very acutely felt."

Which leaves victims like me thinking, what's the point. What is the point of putting yourself through that trauma of court for sentences like that. 

And that my friends is why I don't call myself a Christian. How can anyone sentenced for sexually abusing a young girl now dead claim to be a Christian? It's an insult. And she shouldn't feel guilty because she is a "Christian" she should feel guilty because she is human. Guilt is nothing to do with God, guilt is human. 

Honestly its just madness, and something HAS to change. It makes me rather pleased Jimmy Savile is dead, because maybe his sentencing would be piss poor to, who knows.

Coming forward as an adult to say you have been abused as a child is bloody hard. My heart goes out to all those with the intestinal fortitude to face court.

We need a better system. We need much better support for adults. Getting help is so hard. I've had to go private, yet again, for help with my poorly brain tormented by memories.

We need to get this right. Savile proves there are so many of us walking around with this hurt that needs healing.

And we cannot rely on the court system, and when perpertrators are utilising the same God we are, it makes it very hard to bear. 

Saturday, 30 March 2013

What is Love?

When I was young, I found it hard to love. The things that happened to me as a child had hurt me, and broke the way I processed emotion. I found it very hard to feel love, to understand it. I wanted to love, to feel attached, warm and protected, but it was almost impossible. At times I still struggle.

I had no boyfriends at school or college. I had crushes but they never went any further. I felt lonely and a bit broken. All my other friends had relationships, their first kisses were at 14 or 15. Many were doing much more than that.

To me, sex and intimacy were all tied up with love, without it, they meant nothing. Why would you want to hold hands or spend hours kissing some spotty adolescent? Wise beyond my years perhaps.

To me true love, was my Nana. She taught me about love. We used to talk for hours about everything: politics, religion, sex, relationships. She was love. Nana loved deeply. She loved her family, her God, her community. She was very quiet, she never made a song and dance about it. Whilst she was Catholic she did not believe at all that that was the only way. She encouraged me to find my own truth. 

At university I began to mix with boys and men more. I discovered emotions that confused me. Affection, desire, lust. I started to date, and have experiences. Around this time I also became a Christian.

I had always believed in God. So many things had happened to me as a child and in my darkest times that is was impossible not to believe in a higher power that saw me through. People ask "how can God allow bad things to happen", but my God isn't a puppeteer. Life, the good and the bad happens to all of us, it's how we respond that matters.

 I could feel this warmth and protection and I chose to call it God. It wasn't the God I learnt about at Sunday School, it was a strong real presence, just wrapping me in safety. It was love. I chose to call it God.

As I started to attend church I started learning. A lot of what I learnt I question now, but one thing I learnt has stayed with me.

It's trotted out for weddings all the time, 1 Corinthians 13 4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres.
 Love is not about 50 Shades of Grey or silly songs. It's nothing to do with sex or intimacy. Love is a decision. It's a decision to put the truth first. It is patience personified. It's nothing to do with self, it's to do with others. I love you. I put you first. I care for you. Really, I love many many people. Why define it further?

Love is an action. It's not a feeling. If I say "I love you" I mean that I will protect you, trust you, be someone you can trust, will always hope with you and perservere with you. It means truth. To be true, share each others trues.

I don't call myself a Christian anymore as such. Particularly as a survivor of child abuse, I just feel that too often Christianity is tied up with church, and for many people church was not a safe haven. There are too many connotations with that word. I just believe in love. My perspective is Judeo Christian one because that is my social context, what I grew up with. I don't apologise for that. I cannot believe that Christianity is more valid than any other religion, however. It's not me. Because I believe in love, and that people find their own paths to love whatever that means for them.

Love isn't pretty. It isn't shiny and sparkly. Love can be dirty, hard work. To love someone, to truly love them, isn't something to take lightly.

Before you next tell someone you love them, think about it.

Are you ready to truly love? 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Pond Water Pact

I'd been having a tough few weeks so decided to take a break and go down to see a few friends including Daniel, and just have some selfish few days doing fun stuff, whilst Corey and Joseph were in Germany with family.

Of course Daniel had to stick a spanner in the works, and during a routine blood test, it was found his white blood cell count was very low, 3000. As Daniel has an underlying medical condition, and frequent visits from carers and other people, he was at high risk of infection. He was even, whilst I was there, threatened with admission to a neutropenic ward.

Eager to avoid this, it was suggested to Daniel that he start drinking green tea. It's quite widely accepted that green tea can improve white blood cell count.

Daniel wasn't overly keen, not being a lover of tea or coffee or hot drinks in general, but far preferable to admission was willing to try. Me being the sort of friend I am said I'd make the switch too. It's made me giggle as people have said "oh are you doing this for Lent?" and I reply "No, Daniel, I am far more scared of him than God"

I am not a fan of green tea, and have to say, it looks like pond water. My German office manager at Green Fish said "it tastes like photosynthesis", and she isn't wrong.

I went on abit of a mission to try different types of green tea, and I have to say Ive been somewhat pleasantly surpised, and I like them all for different reasons. Plain green tea I do find a bit hardcore, but with a flavouring in, its pleasant, and the green tea chai is a real treat.

I have made the switch now for well over a week, and the thing is, this is permanent. I've cut out tea and coffee, but may over time have the occasional coffee. I find it a very relaxing drink, and I am drinking a lot more in general than I did, I feel really well hydrated, and don't get the same crash as I do after having coffee.

Change is hard, and anything I can do to help friends I will do. I am very pleased to report that Daniel's white blood cell count, at last test, was 10 000, which is back within normal range. It could be coincidence but it would appear the green tea has done the trick.

All hail pondwater!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

For Frances Andrade

This beautiful spirit is Frances Andrade. Before you read I want you to listen to her play

I want you to remeber this woman as a talented violinist, and someone who put all her sadness into her music. Because Frances Andrade doesn't play anymore, she died. A week after giving evidence against the man and his wife who sexually abused her as a teenager.

When I heard her story on the news last night and read today  I wept. My heart was torn in two for this beautiful woman that I never met. I sought solace in my violin playing when I was a child, beginning lessons at the age of seven. I never reached her dizzying heights or had her talent. But it comforted me.

When I wrote Jimmy Savile is dead I said that when you talk about the abuse, you are no longer an adult, you are right back there again, as a vulnerable child. It's terrifying, you feel exposed, stripped bare, dirty, alone, guilty, disgusting. You feel unlovable, and like your life is just not worth living. I know. I am there.

Frances bravely took her abuser to court. The process took two years, alledgedly in this time, she was advised not to seek counselling. In court she was called a liar and a fantastist, and this dear, dear woman had been sexually assaulted as a girl by an uncle, and later by her teacher and his wife was not believed. She had suffered so deeply. She had a history of self harm. Frances built a life and a loving family against the odds. She brought beauty with her music against such pain that she had suffered.

The man who sexually assaulted her is awaiting sentencing. But Frances died before she ever heard the words "guilty". The inquest is yet to be held, but the statements being issued tell a story. A story of a woman assaulted by the criminal justice system and let down by the police. I am not going to go into the merits or otherwise of the adversarial system of trial, but something has, indeed, gone horribly wrong when a victim is dead and the perpertrator gets a sentence in prison.

We have to learn from Frances, that her death may not be in vain. I talked briefly about my own story here. I was the victim of a sustained period of abuse as a little girl. I revisted this with the police not long ago, and was believed. But they advised me to think very carefully about going to trial. Historical cases are notoriously hard to prosecute. Both my witnesses are dead, also at their own hand. My memory is very patchy, I was very young, I didn't have the vocabulary for the things that happened to me.

I have no dates, there is no dna, there are no witnesses. I know in my heart that it happened, but I will never hear "guilty as charged your honour".

There has to be a better way. There has to be. In the 21st century we can do better than this, I have no answers but I am not going to be silent anymore. If we want to see these evil people punished, we need to get much better at the process.

Rest in peace Frances Andrade and I hope, wherever you are, there is music, sparkle and happiness.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Shark Bait, Humour and PTSD

This is NOT me - sadly
I blogged yesterday about PTSD and how I am having a flare up at present. I don't know about any of my fellow diggers with PTSD but one of the things I find really helps is humour. I guess its that old flight and fight thing too, that humour helps me, it brings me back to reality and makes me realise that however traumatic life has been there are still candles of hope.

As all of you know I have a stunningly handsome best friend, Daniel, who I adore to bits. Daniel has become such an accepted part of our family that Joseph sends him hugs every morning, and Corey refers to him as my twitter husband or twusband for short. A regular occurance in our household is

Husband: Can I watch football tonight darling?
Wife: Oh but I really wanted to watch telly
Husband: Well, isn't Daniel on Twitter can't you go flirt with him?
Wife: Ok then *toddles off happily*

When I first started talking to Daniel on Twitter I found him insightful, very clever and um a bit scientific. Never boring, but he ran his account almost like a business account, very professional and a bit, well, dry at times.

What I slowly began to realise that under this very serious exterior is an exceedingly warm and funny man. And this week we have both been there for one another (well as usual really) when this amazing woman sort of came into his life (no sadly not in a romantic sense!)

I suggested Daniel write a funny post about Nesta which he has here, so please read it.

Nesta clearly realised the best way to reach Daniel was on Twitter, she's not really a Twitter user (yet mwahahaha) and is still an egg. So when she sent the tweet:

Nesta Roberts ‏@NestaRoberts
@Daniel___BSc You’ve inspired me! Please check it out!!
My gorgeous, self deprecating best friend does what um everyone does and assumes it's spam. He said something like "this is spam isn't it?" I did 2 minutes checking, and just laughed at him! Beautiful woman wants to chuck herself in a shark tank to raise money for Target MD and Dan assumes it's spam. Just so Daniel all over.

Even I, Daniel's best mate, wouldn't do that!!! There are limits!!!

So if you are amazed and overwhelmed that someone who has never met Daniel would do this, please sponsor Nesta.

I'd also like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has made me laugh, sent hugs and offered to help. There have been so many of you I am overwhelmed. One of the problems with PTSD is I find asking for and accepting help very hard, so if I haven't replied or seem a bit off, just be patient with me. I am much better at helping others than accepting help.

And you can just tell me a funny story, or send a funny picture :)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Poorly Again - PTSD

This post is highly personal, and honest. Please think carefully before reading if you have your own PTSD and pain in your life, and particularly a history of sexual assualt. I won't be offended. 

I'm protecting someone. I don't know why. This person tried to take everything from me, my child, my job, my liberty. It happened a week ago. This person, a childminder in whom I placed my trust, made a serious allegation of child neglect. Child neglect is a crime, punishable with prison time. She said my child is dirty and smelly, that he is fed junk food, and that I dress him inappropriately for cold weather. She's either seriously deluded or.....I dunno, seriously deluded? She reported me to the social services safeguarding team. Fortunately Joseph has been in a placement for nearly 2 years and they totally backed me. I spoke to the social workers involved who immediately saw this allegation for what it was and proceeded no further. I have done so much safeguarding training and work that to be honest, initially I just saw this as another nuisance thing to deal with in my busy life.

But now, it's set in.

I am derailed. I thought I was doing ok. All my life I have protected people who have tried to hurt me. From the man who anally raped me at 5 years old, to the husband who married a virgin then raped her so severely she bled and was bruised. That was me. I never sought help because as a Christian (the type I was back then) had been conditioned that I had no right to say no to sex as a wife. So conditioned I was to hurt I just got on with it.

I just feel so tired. I am so sick of being attacked, of being made to feel inferior and no one can do that without my consent. I am not inferior. But I am broken.

My dear friend Daniel asked me the other day what the difference between a memory and a flashback is. Memories can be unpleasant, this is true, but memories can be, to an extent controlled. Flashbacks are involuntary memories. They are usually sensory too, physical sensations, smells, sounds, tastes, visions all come back in frightening reality. It's like being trapped inside a 3D telly until someone changes the channel.

PTSD can also make you make stupid connections. My beautiful friend Jennie lost her daughter this week. All week I had been feeling like the allegation of child neglect was the worst thing that could happen to a parent, and then I received Jennie's heart destroying news.

An allegation of child neglect is nothing. Nothing.

Nothing compares to finding your child no longer breathing, not rape, not child sexual assault and certainly not some misguided accusation of neglect.

I will get my brain back.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Stressful Week and a Story About Chicken

This has been one of the worst weeks I have had as a parent. I can't go into massive details now, those of you on my personal Facebook will know the basics, but I was reported for child neglect this week. I will, one day, do a post about how I love our child protection system, it isn't perfect, but it does work. I have been fully cleared, within an hour of me being made aware of the allegation. I am in awe of the work social workers do and how they operate, and have nothing but praise for how we have been managed.

I am not sleeping well as it has kicked off my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. One of my protection mechanisms is that when stressed weird things pop into my head, strange memories. This one was a very happy, funny one so I thought I'd share it.

I also have an update on my other blog too. 

Our Sicilian apartment in Letojanni
I was on holiday in Sicily with now hubby and 2 friends. We were staying in an apartment, and I decided to cook dinner, chicken involtini with ricotta insalata, in a tomato sauce served with summer greens and new potatoes.

So Sicilian villages being what they are, full of interesting looking men in black suits, and old ladies with scarves on their heads, I went to the butcher, as supermarkets don't exist. Presumably supermarket owners turn their nose up at paying large bribes, and are all at the bottom of the Mediterannean in concrete boots, but I digress.
View of the Mediterranean from our apartment
So big Sicilian butcher, looking like an Italian version of Con the Fruiterer, we shall call him Bertolli the Butcher, says "bionjourno" in pidgin italian I ask for Pollo. Here we come unstuck. Italian for breast. Not a clue. He points to his legs "no" He flaps his wings (well arms, Bertolli does not have wings) he starts to cluck and scratch his feet all the time talkinig very fast in Sicilian dialect. The shop, which was full of disapproving Sicilan grandmothers, starts to feel very uncomfortable, this weird woman is disrupting their normal Wednesday morning. I shoot apologetic looks and ask for help "English?" nooooo they all shake their heads. 
Me in Aussie Backpacker mode in Sicily
Any way, his head cocked to one side he says with huge grin "Pollo?? Pollo??" With great joy, he grasped his considerable breasts which appeared bigger than mine (those of you who know me will appreciate that this is quite impressive, for a bloke, as I am rather *ahem* gifted in the boobage department) and said "ah these, these" and then started pointing at mine and then in perfect English said "how many chicken breasts would you like".

Two please

The previously Easter Island appearing Greek ladies all start erupting with laughter saying "ha ha she wanted chicken breast"

Surprisingly, there was no camera crew to capture this moment.
Me cooking in our Sicilian kitchen. My next trick was not, sadly to ask for rump steak.
BTW the chicken was delicious. Who knows what they feed Sicilian chickens but the breasts were the size of pterodactyl breasts, and had so much flavour. If you have never been to Sicily I highly recommend the place. But you may want to take a phrase book.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Snow in London

I am an Aussie girl, and I love snow. Yes I accept its disruptive, it ices over and causes havoc, but you can't deny, it is pretty. I was down in London for 2 days for work this past week and it was so incredibly busy I didn't have much time for sight seeing, but I did manage some interesting pictures between my apartment and office.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Risk and Rape

I'm not an expert. I'm not a criminologist or a police officer or a barrister. I'm not a philospher or a psychologist. My only qualification for writing about rape is as a survivor. My childhood I have eluded to in this post.

The simple fact is that this wasn't the end. As an adult I have been the victim of rape twice, some six years apart with different offenders.

Today I got involved in some discussion on Twitter following the publication of this article discussing Conservative MP Richard Graham's comments that women are putting themselves at risk by the way they dress, on the back of the awfully misguided comments from Joanna Lumley.

What I find tedious is this:- where is the discussion on men who rape? Where is the discussion on what is appropriate behaviour when they interact with women? Why is the emphasis on women "bringing it on themselves"?Why aren't we talking about what is consent and how we establish  it? Why aren't we asking the hard questions?

When I was 17 I was raped, by a man at university. I was asked to help him with his English which I was more than happy to do and absolutely foolishly agreed to do this in his dormitory room which was near mine. This was stupid. I should have met him at the library, but at 17 I had no experience (apart from my childhood, and had never had any counselling or help with that) had never had a boyfriend, hadn't had my first kiss, I was naive. I still thought rape was something that happened in dark alleys after a drunken night out. Seems some people have not moved on from this naive assumption.

We'd met a few times and everything was fine, he seemed a pleasant chap devoted to learning English and improving his grades, I never had reason to be concerned. Then one day he was different. He was threatening, and he forced me to do things that fall under the definition of rape. I managed to make my escape before it escalated, but under the definition of the legislation, I was raped. But what I didn't do was report it to the police. I did notify the warden of the hall of residence and the tutoring service. Neither of these bodies urged me to go to the police. I didn't understand that rape is rape. I was ashamed and felt that my actions were complicit. I was wrong.  It didn't matter that I was naive and a bit silly.It didn't matter that he was known to me.He took advantage of the situation and he raped me. He shouldn't have done what he did, end of story.

For the record, every time we met I was sober. I didn't wear high heels or short skirts. I wore jumpers and jeans. Even if I'd worn a micro mini with suspenders and high heels and had been drinking copious amounts of white wine, he still would have been in the wrong. Men should not rape women.

Minimising risk is a dangeous conversaton, because it puts the onus back on the woman. The onus of responsibility should be on the man, for that is what the law says. The "Richard Graham rape scenario" is uncommon. Most victims know their attacker. The drunken woman in a short skirt in high heels in a park in the middle of the night isn't when most women will fall foul of a rapist. Discussing what women should wear or drink or how they should behave is a slippery slope.

The law makes it most abundantly clear.

It is not relevant what relationship, if any, a defendant has or had with you. Nor is it relevant if the act complained of occurred within a relationship. If the defendant intentionally penetrates with his penis the vagina, anus or mouth of the complainant without her consent where he does not reasonably believe in her consent the defendant has committed rape.

It also crucially says:

It means that the defendant (A) has the responsibility to ensure that (B) consents to the sexual activity at the time in question. It will be important for the police to ask the offender in interview what steps he took to satisfy him that the complainant consented.
Lets start talking about what rape is and what it isn't, what consent is and what it is not. I don't want to read anything else about high heels, short skirts and behaviour. I think women understand about assessing risk and being careful. What we do need is a discussion about men, about misuse of sexual power and teaching our sons about what is acceptable and not acceptable.

The crime of rape is about the deviant behaviour of the perpetrator, not the victim

Friday, 25 January 2013

You Are Asking For It......Rape

Your skirt is too short.

You are showing too much cleavage.

You've drunk too much.

You danced with the wrong man.

Why in the name of God are we still talking about victims like this? Is it not the 21st century?

Rape is NOT about the victim. The consequences of rape should be about the victim - crucially support, treatment, counselling and effective and real justice, I totally agree.

But rape is about the perpertrator. We need, as a community to start adressing rape. And it starts young. Maybe it's because of my history, but I see every potential young boy as someone who will misuse their sexual power in the future. And they need to learn. And they need to learn from us, the adults in their community about using that power for good.

This post today makes me sad.

At 19 life should be about having fun, wearing your skirts too short, showing a little cleavage, going out and having a life. At 19 I wasn't really having fun. I was settled too early, I was scared of men. I learnt too young that men abuse their sexual power. But I learnt at 5 (though it started earlier)

All my life I have lived both as a survivor, but yes, as a victim. I have been scared to wear the clothes I want, to live the life I want, to experience men without fear. I've felt safe covered in flesh and baggy outfits. I don't want to live like that any more.

I refuse to buy in to these messages about victims. Rape is about some men (and some women). It's about abuse. It's about a power differential.

If you are a woman, think. Think about survivors and think about supporting them in a real way. If you are a man also think. I love this post from James Parkin and urge you to read it too. 

Rape is a responsibility of us all.

Ending sexual violence should be a priority to each and every one of us.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Flowers Bring Happiness - Ten Things my Grandmother Taught Me

My grandmother, Ada May Turner, is my guardian angel. We were close right up until her death at the age of 79. It's only recently I have realised, that she never went away, although she has been gone 21 incredibly long years, the lessons she taught me are priceless, and with me always.

1. Sometimes making someone a cup of tea and presenting a tray of homemade scones is equivalent to therapy. My grandmother always had a teapot ready, and homemade scones were almost a daily occurance. She had a cake for cutting always stashed away.

2. Be kind. No matter what you have been through or going through, kindness is a balm. If we are all kind to one another the world is a happier place. I am often called kind, generous and even amazing, but that has all be taught to me by Nana.

3. No man is worth a woman's tears. It seems funny now but when I was 19 I had a boyfriend who was older than me, 27, he was an astronomer, fascinating, geeky and I thought he was gorgeous. He dressed like Don Johnson in Miami Vice, and I looked up to him so much. He decided to have a fling with my best friend and I found out in a most unpleasant way. I cried many tears over that man. My Nana sent me a letter saying she had done the same at my age, and really he wasn't worth it.

4. That sometimes a good shopping trip, putting on a frock and lippy, makes everything better. My Nana loved going to the shops, she was terrible! She used to buy me lovely dresses, and tops, and used to take me out for lunch. We were best friends!

5. Life is too short to make your own pastry. My nana was a home economics teacher, but she left home economics as she didn't like the way it was taught. She believed that it was fine to use convenience foods. Using a tin of tomato soup as a base for a vegetable soup, making a crust for a pie with ready rolled puff pastry, or using dehydrated onions in a casserole if you were short of time was fine.

6. On the back of this though, life is too short for bad ingredients. My Nana was an amazing baker but used butter, eggs, and lots and lots of elbow grease. She would beat enthusiastically, and make sure her cake batters were perfect. My Nana has spoiled me for madeira cake forever! None tastes like hers.

7. Beauty is nothing to do with how you look. My nana was the most beautiful person in the world. She radiated peace, grace and love. She smelt amazing, of lavender and of baking and of talcum powder. She made the world a better place just by being there. Everyone adored her.

8. That you never really know the power and influence you have had in your life until you are gone. My Nana was a simple countrywoman. She worked on her farm, raised her children, taught in her school, but the influence she had was amazing. Our house was flooded with cars, flowers and letters. Her funeral was packed. My Nana had touched more people than she ever knew.

9.That women can do anything. My mother gave me a book on Australian Prime Ministers one Christmas and said I would be the first woman Prime Minister of Australia. Julia Gillard got their first sadly. But my Nana as much as she was a knitter, a baker and a homemaker was an ardent feminist.

10. Flowers bring happiness. I associate lavender, pansies and bulbs with my Nana. Both she and my grandfather were talented and prolific gardeners. It is no accident that this blog is full of flowers. And this will remain so. Flowers bring happiness.  

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Taking Care of our Treasures

In my life I have received many blessings, but one of the most powerful blessing I have received is that I have been trusted to be a carer, on and off, since I was 15. I started as a volunteer in a nursing home. In my career as a volunteer and paid member of staff I have had many priveleged moments and opportunities. I have held the hand of a 99 year old lady whilst arranging the paperwork for her 100 year telegram from the Queen. I have been with a 96 year old lady in her last days, singing Elvis songs and reading from the Bible to her. I have taken terminally ill children to museums and watched with delight as they have seen a piece of artwork for the first time. I've had hard times too, had pots thrown at me by an irate woman with spina bifida, been kicked in the chest and sustained broken ribs, have at times felt unsupported and undervalued.

The rewards I have received have been immense, and it is with sadness that I approach my last shifts as a carer this week, and move on to my new, equally rewarding role with Bliss. The rewards are not monetary, but I am thankful for the pay I have received over the years, because many people do this, and much harder care tasks for nothing. I never forget that. When I moan about minimum wage I think about the thousands of thousands of people who do this every day with very little support much less pay.

I got into care work because I adore people. I have learnt a lot of skills. Perhaps the hardest thing to learn is when to say "I am not doing this." One of the most valuable people to follow on Twitter, Ermintrude, a social worker and passionate advocate for those whose voice can't always be heard, posted this story yesterday. There is now a further update which can be found here.

Immediately there were tears running down my face. I felt so much for this treasured lady who had given so much in her life. But also, I felt for the two staff, who were inadequately trained placed in a position that was impossible.

I understand economics, I almost have a degree in it. I understand why care homes and home care providers have to pay minimum wage or near as darn it. But I am sorry it's the old adage, if you pay peanuts.....then often you have to pay staff who are inadequate for the task.

Being a carer isn't just wiping bottoms and making cups of tea. The equipment is intricate, and varies so much. Hoisting a person is not the same as using a hoist in a factory or labouring yard.

I think far too much emphasis in "moving and handling" courses is placed on employee safety, which of course, is paramount, but I'd rather 100 carers with bad backs that one 100 year old lady who has died in such tragic circumstances.

For what I have learnt in my years as a carer is this.

a) People are treasures. Sometimes you have to look really hard to see that person's jewel, believe me I know, but each of the people who trusts us is unique and special.

b) Often the things we don't do are more important than the things we do. I have had to walk into a situation, hold my hands up and say "sorry I am not doing this task, its potentially dangerous" and do what we say in Australia "call it out". There is always a safe way but sometimes you have to stop, hush the busyness and reassess.

For sometimes the lives we take care of need us to be still, to think, and to assess. And sometimes doing nothing is the best thing you can do.