Saturday, 26 May 2018

Write, Like There's Nobody Reading

First I thought it, then wrote it, and read it...
Next I clipped it and stripped it,
Formatted and edited,
Cutted it, tutted it,
Cleaned and themed,
Bolded the words
and chose a font,
tried to decide which style I want
Spell check,
High tech
Heads a wreck!
And Yet....

I think it's ready!

Ready to be unleashed on the World Wide Web. Now all that's left is to hit the button, the one that says 'publish'. And my words will be out there for all to see. A click away from a billion pairs of eyes.
My finger hovers for just a moment, and then I press it. It's out there!

I brace myself, for the impending criticisms, whilst mentally rehearsing modest acknowledgements to the imminent applause.

Reads: 0
I decide to play the part of reader. I'm not sure about the title, is it catchy enough? I change it.
I scrutinise through other eyes, change a word, is the message heard?
I should leave it now. Do something else.

Reads: 1
I have an audience! Yet no response. Did they like it? Did they hate it? Why don't they say?
I ask myself what they want, and I write again. It doesn't feel right. Not like it usually does.
Who am I writing for? An abyss of unseen faces, glaring expectantly from beyond the darkness.

Reads 3:
Suddenly I find my freedom. Nobody is listening! I can speak openly. That feels natural. Writing, in it's most organic form, does not, after all, desire to be read. It only demands to be written.

The value of being unheard, is that there is nobody to impress, only truth to be spoken.
So I concentrate on speaking my truth, just like I always did. It's hard to ignore the imagined responses of a theoretical audience, so critical. Impossible to please!

I encourage my heart to hold the pen more tightly, hush my nagging brain. I might begin to sound insane, but at least it is relatable, authentic.

"You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work."  
(Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh, Come from the Heart)
We can all recognise the value of this advice. Because fear will never guide us to our true calling.
True beauty, in art, creation, all that we do, and all that we say, comes from a place of love. When our hearts are free, expression is pure.

So I can only hope that nobody will read this, or rather, hope to write, as though they wont.

Friday, 25 May 2018

If All We See Are Black And White, The World Turns Grey.

Why do we reduce the really important issues to extremes of black or white? Why do we disregard an entire spectrum of colour?
We don't do that with the small meaningless decisions, like which sofa to buy, we don't limit our options to just a black sofa or a white sofa, we look at loads of sofa's of every size, colour and material imaginable before committing our arses to a seat!
So why don't we do the same with the really big, important questions?

For example; vaccines, are you pro-vaccine or are you anti-vaccine? What kind of a question is that? That's like asking me if I'm pro-fire or anti-fire! Fire can be very useful, it's been known to save lives, but it's dangerous when it gets out of control...
I'm pro warming by a nice log fire but I'm anti being burned alive!

A hot topic at the moment, abortion. Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
How the hell can that even be a question?? I'm not anti-life and I'm certainly not anti-choice! I mean, come on! The root of the issue is whether a persons right to choice, trumps another persons right to life, but apparently we're too busy choosing extreme opposites from which to hurl insults to look at things more closely or rationally. [sigh]

I had an abortion, as so many of us do. Do I regret it? I don't regret the choice I made, no. But I do regret not being more aware of the choice I was making. (only informed choice is true choice) You see, I didn't think of it as ending a life, and neither did anybody really bring it to my attention. It felt as though the life was a future concept that I was intercepting; like, if you do nothing, a life will come into existence, but if you have an abortion, you will prevent that life from coming into existence.
It was just a medical procedure, for convenience, I didn't give a great deal of thought to the moral implications of it (and I think about morality a lot!).

I wasn't ready to be a mother, I knew that it wasn't meant to be. That may sound selfish, but that's because it is, and that's acceptable, for a woman. 
A few years later, I was ready, as it happened, and this time, I knew with every ounce of my being that it was meant to be. I had always been terrified of childbirth, but now an inexplicable calm came over me. Everything was going to be fine, because I felt it. It was right.

But with the abortion debate raging, I've been inclined to give it deeper thought... 

I finally accepted the truth; I didn't prevent an existence, I halted one.

It's interesting, how we use language to make things more comfortable for ourselves, isn't it? All the things we justify, which if we were to really look at, would horrify us. We don't want to have to confront the consequences of our choices.
We make selfish choices, and we get creative in finding ways to divert the attention of our conscience...
Lest we wake it. 

We 'abort' a 'foetus', we 'terminate' a pregnancy, we dispose of 'tissues', but in a different scenario, we would use entirely different words, like 'kill' and 'baby'.

I know it may sound as if I'm firmly anti-abortion at this point, the truth is I'm really shocked about a lot of things.
Things I didn't know before. But mostly I'm shocked at the attitude of people, who seem completely unwilling to look at anything that doesn't fit well with their already established extreme stance on the issue.
It seems, many refuse to see anything beyond women's rights, which seems to pretty much take priority over everything else today.
I'm not against women having rights, I am a woman, I definitely want rights. But I'm a woman who believes in equality as well as rights. I don't believe any one person or groups rights should be elevated above the rights of others.

I also am shocked by some of things I've learned recently with regards to abortion law in the UK.
The disparities between law and practice, the overwhelming enormity of our current statistics, and the if I can't see it, it doesn't exist attitude we seem to be taking. I'm not suggesting we step back into the dark ages, forcing desperate women into dangerous situations but I do think we should perhaps take a less blasé approach to something which if looked at closely, resembles some of the most terrifying futuristic horror films I've ever seen.

We live in a country where you could theoretically see medical professionals working hard to preserve the life of a prematurely born human, while in another room, a human of the same age and size is destroyed on demand. The only difference between the two; a woman's choice!
Such a fine line for morality to hold, certainly, we wouldn't accept such a choice in any other scenario.

The truth is, this is a big, important moral decision. It's not a sofa. If you're taking one extreme view or the other on such serious issues, you are probably wrong, even if you're in the majority.

Because Very Few Things Are Really Black Or White!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Face At The Window

It was a beautiful day! We were walking back from the park, but not to go home, only for refreshments, we were happy in the sun.
We looked downwards to protect our eyes from the sunlight, and as I glanced up, I was surprised to find myself looking, into another pair of eyes...

Naturally I recoiled, uncomfortable with the intrusion of uninvited human contact from the face, in a crack, in a curtain. But the eyes locked on mine and the mouth opened, words were spoken, words I could not recognise...

I hesitated, media's dark stream of negativity crawled beneath my skin.

I opened the gate...

I walked across the grass and approached the window of the ominous stranger, I put my head inside, and three more times I listened intently to the undecipherable message, the gestures offered clues, and I realised that he wanted me to pass him something from inside that darkened room...

A flutter of indignation rose in my chest, calmed only by a whispered 'wait'.

Determined to know what was spoken, and determined to be heard, we tried once more.
And finally, I understood the words that he was saying;

"Could you pass me my wheelchair, please?"

My suspicions fell shamefully away, and my heart rose, open and willing.... willing and able!
I opened the door to the house, stepped inside and obliged his simple request; for freedom.

And we went on our way, richer for the encounter, grateful to be blessed with the gift, of a chance to be kind.

A short while later, we passed the window again, the face was still there, eating a sandwich.

Pushy Vegans

I would like to share something with you, particularly with those of you who have a dislike of pushy vegans trying to force their views onto you...

Three years ago, I experienced something of an awakening. I had lived most of my 37 years as someone who ate a lot of meat and dairy, and although I didn't always feel comfortable with the way we produce and consume these products, the idea of becoming vegetarian, let alone vegan, seemed impractical to me for many reasons; career choice, my love of food, cultural influence. I respected those who chose to avoid animal products, but it was hard to imagine ever doing it myself!

Until, one Sunday morning, when I had something of an epiphany... An enlightenment. It was one of those profound moments, where everything comes together at an exact point in time to completely change your perspective; and I saw, for the first time, the full horror of what I had been supporting. Guilt poured out of me in floods of tears, and in an instant, something which had always seemed impossible was suddenly made simple and easy.

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” Eckhart Tolle

I can’t take credit for that. It was just an experience which presented itself to me at that time in my life.
It was a wonderful and life changing moment! It brought me so much peace and joy. A weight I never even knew I had been carrying was lifted, and I felt lighter, more in tune with my soul.

The thing about positive experiences are that we want to share them with those around us. And here is where I learnt a hard lesson, I hope I can share my perspective with you in order to bridge a divide of misunderstanding...

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." Mark Twain

You see, this wonderful, amazing thing happened to me, and naturally I wanted to shout about it from the rooftops, to tell the people I loved; and more than that, I wanted them to experience it too!
So I'm sure you can imagine my shock and disappointment when those people reacted with anger, ridicule and defensiveness... I simply could not understand it. These were people I had known and loved all of my life and instead of embracing my wonderful experience they seemed to be angry with me, I was bewildered!

Over time I have come to understand, that this was not an experience I could share with everyone.
I now have the advantage of experiencing life as both a vegan and as a non vegan. There is no way I can judge or criticise others for their consumption of animal products, just because I was blessed to have had the gift that I had.

"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment."    Lao Tzu

There are, unfortunately many vegans who lose sight of that and allow themselves to react emotionally and aggressively, and there were times I wanted to distance myself from the vegan label. But there is another side to it too; when you become aware, when you choose to look and see the full horror of unnecessary suffering that we humans mercilessly inflict upon the animal kingdom, you feel compelled to make it stop. In this case, if ignorance is bliss... knowledge is almost intolerable!

What I want to communicate here, is that when I may have seemed to be pushing my views onto others, what may have felt like criticism or judgement was simply me; the same me that once consumed animal products, just like you, wanting to share my positive experience.
I learned the hard way that it's not so easy. But understand, it came from a place of love.

Writing For Love (And Coffee)

Since I began publicising my writing, I've had much to learn! Aside from the basic practicalities of brushing up on punctuation and grammar, and getting to grips with the sanity-defying challenges of internet technology, I began writing for a company called Textbroker.
Although, from what I've read, and what I've experienced, textbroker is no longer the bottomless pool of freelance work that it must once have been. It provided a great advantage to me.
Firstly, it gave a boost to my confidence; I received an excellent author rating for my sample work and within days, I was writing and getting paid for it, result! 
Although, 8 hours of fastidious research, cross referencing, writing, reading, cutting and editing for the meagre price of £5 may not seem like much of a result, my efforts were richly rewarded in experience gained and lessons learned. The tedious 400 words on novelty toy imports,  attained little more than £3, but the painfully acquired wisdom never to take on a subject that held absolutely no interest for me, was fucking priceless!

"There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either"– Robert Graves

Encouraged by the fact that  people were actually willing to pay for my writing, I began to explore other avenues. I set up a basic blog and began to assemble my ramblings there.
There seemed to be no end of advice for successful writing techniques, much of it written by seemingly successful writers.

"When in doubt tell the truth". Mark Twain
So I read stuff and wrote stuff, tried to apply all the helpful tips which would make my writing readable... catchy headlines, popular topics etc. I began sharing my articles on Medium where I got to see stats breaking down views and reads, giving me a useful percentage to analyse. I noticed that the clickbait title had the most views but the lowest read ratio, having a successful title which attracts the wrong audience seems pretty pointless! Stats aside, I received one heart-warming personal response for the same piece and it was worth more than a thousand views!
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace". - Buddha

So as I sifted through the endless rules of successful writing,  one began to stand out to me... screw the rules!
Why am I even writing? Is my determination to succeed stifling my creative flow?  Undoubtedly! Money is a practical necessity and earning it by doing something we love is the ultimate goal, but when money becomes the motive for art, something is lost, the creative flow is compromised, somehow.
I always have, and always will write, it's a compulsion from deep inside of me, that demands to be released, and it couldn't care less if it's read or not!
"Writing is its own reward"– Henry Miller

So forget about clicks and claps and likes and hits, in the world of online text, success is abound in misleading titles, insanely irrelevant but alluring images, patronising how to's, and no end of irreverent, high-earning, trite, I would rather choose authenticity, even if nobody reads it.

So in the absence of superficial attraction, how will I call forth the support of my less than enthusiastic readers?
Simple. If it interests you, read it. If it moves you, share it. If you want more, follow it. And if you want to, you can  buy me a coffee.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

5 Common Myths about Home Education

"No school today?" A question often faced by home-educated children and their parents when they leave the house during school hours; which they frequently do! There are many different styles and approaches to education outside of school; usually tailored to the individual needs of the child, but it rarely involves staying at home and mimicking the school environment; on the contrary; it means freedom to participate in normal life on a daily basis, learning through experience and natural curiosity.
Although exact figures are unknown, it is clear that there has been a drastic rise in the number of home-educated children recently; perhaps, as more parents become aware that it's an option, but also because of the inevitable detrimental effects of the academic pressures forced on children from an increasingly young age.
Despite growing awareness, there are still many misconceptions about home-education; Here are the facts on five commonly held beliefs about Home Education.

1. School is a legal requirement.

It's not. As the law stands, (according to the Education Act 1996) providing a suitable education is the parents responsibility; school is just one option. You don't need to inform anyone if you decide not to send your child to school (although there have been proposals for compulsory registration) but you must "deregister" if your child is already in attendance. More info here

2. You need to be a qualified teacher.

You don't. In fact, parents often refer to themselves as facilitators; encouraging the child to follow their own interests, while providing inspiration and resources. Learning together, as opposed to traditional teacher/pupil roles can be highly rewarding as well as establishing the ability to self-educate as a life-long skill.

3. You have to follow the curriculum.

You don't have to. You can, if you wish, but the law does not require it. Section 7 of the Education act stipulates that parents must provide a "suitable" education, according to the age, ability and aptitude of the child, and although this may seem unclear; the truth is that  educational needs can differ greatly from one child to the next; a diversity that the school system is ill-equipped to accommodate.

4. They wont learn to read and write.

They will. Often without even being taught. We have come to think of "learning" as something which requires "teaching" but that's not the case at all! The truth of the matter, can be observed in pre-school developments: We don't teach children to walk or talk, and yet they learn. They learn because they want to be a part of the world they live in; they see us walking and talking, and they are driven to be included. Parents of non-schooled children are able to observe this natural process continue beyond infancy and be applied with equal efficiency to academic skills such as maths and literacy

5. School is essential for socialisation.

Definitely not! This is probably one of the most persistent misapprehensions about home education. It's often one of the biggest hurdles for parents considering alternatives to institutional schooling, but it usually becomes astoundingly clear that it can be a much healthier approach to social development.
In fact, the school environment is very unique, and unlike any normal social setting. Learning to interact within theses boundaries is not only unhelpful in the real world but can also be harmful; causing anxiety, and creating an oppressive culture where bullying is inevitable.
Children who are free to participate in society and interact with people of all ages and walks of life, on an equal basis actually have a far greater advantage in being able to learn through natural socialisation.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

How to Be a Better Coffee Drinker

Coffee is amazing! I mean, whoever even thought of it? Can you imagine the initial response?

Hi, thanks for coming, can I get you something to drink?

Ooh, yes please, I'm parched! What have you got?

Well, I found these little green beans, so I cooked them up until they turned black and then I smashed them into tiny pieces and mixed in some hot water, want one?

Erm... nah, I'll just have tea, thanks.

"Decaf only works if you throw it at people"

But, evidently the idea caught on eventually, thank goodness! Because now, in the UK alone we drink around 95 million cups of it per day. We never have to go to far to get our caffeine fix either; with over 22,000 coffee shops nationwide; a figure expected to increase by nearly 50% over the next five years, according to research by Allegra World Coffee Portal.

So, what is the problem? Disposable cups is the problem! They may look harmless but the reality is that we use around 7 million of them every day and we are throwing away 2.5 billion of them a year and contrary to popular belief, less than 1% of them are recycled! 
There are in fact, only three centres in the UK where they can be recycled due to the polyethylene lining that makes them waterproof. 

"Coffee helps me maintain my 'never killed anyone' streak"
Our own government have refused to take action, rejecting recent proposals by the Environmental Audit Committee, for a "latte levy" suggesting a 25p charge for disposable cup coffee sales, and instead announced they are "pleased" with the voluntary efforts already being made by retailers: 
Coffee chains Costa and Starbucks already offer a 25p discount incentive for customers who bring their own cup, and Pret a Manger have doubled theirs to 50p.
Boston Tea Party will become the first chain to ban disposable cups altogether, from June 1st this year.
Waitrose supermarket have also pledged to stop using them by Autumn.
Lot's of independent coffee shops are setting an example too, with various incentives or outright bans.
"The world begins to change through the eyes of a cup of coffee" (Donna A Favor)
So, what can we do? Be The Change! Bring your own cup, ask for a discount, spread the word! Check out some of the many reusable cups available to buy.
We can have our coffee and drink it too, without  destroying the planet!

The Good, The Bad and Other Stuff....

Write, Like There's Nobody Reading

First I thought it, then wrote it, and read it... Next I clipped it and stripped it, Formatted and edited, Cutted it, tutted it, Cleaned...