A Blind Leap Completed!

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The following has emotional and raw content including domestic abuse discussed. This may affect some people; if so please remember you can contact Samaritans from any phone on 116 123. Or the National Domestic abuse helpline 08082 000247.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog called “A blind leap” https://nathanconstable.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/a-blind-leap/

At the time I remained anonymous and Nathan Constable kindly published it on my behalf.

The case has now concluded and my blind leap completed. I now feel in a position to write about it freely. I am not ashamed, I believe the only shame is having shame. It’s the things that happen to us in life, that we don’t talk about, that can control us.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have been supporting me, I don’t think I could have got through this without you all. In particular on Twitter the lovely Peter Kirkham, Bosco and Knacker, thank you to the three of you, I will never forget your kindness.

I am writing this, hoping I can somehow prevent anyone else going through this, maybe even change things for the future.

Shortly after The Blind Leap was published, things got a lot worse. My ex then did some awful, horrendous things, which left me with no choice but to report everything to the police.

The police were brilliant, they were so understanding and I was treated so kindly. No-one ever made me feel stupid, like how could a police officer ever get herself in this position. This was something I was very worried about prior to reporting.

The Court Case 

My experience of going through financial divorce proceedings as a survivor of domestic abuse-

I explained in my previous blog A Blind Leap. The financial proceedings were instigated by my ex. I already had obtained the Decree Absolute for his unreasonable behavior. I did not want anything from him financially, the only thing I wanted was for him to leave me alone.

The year before the Court case due to the abuse he was putting me through, my mental health began to decline rapidly. Each time he would do something awful, I would struggle and have to go sick; I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Each time I felt strong enough to go back to work, he would do something else awful; causing me to go sick again. He was breaking me down slowly, I felt weaker and weaker.

Throughout this I was trying to build my case for court, remember I had no solicitor, I could no longer afford it due to taking on all his debts. I was trying to do this myself.

You might be thinking that must be easy? you are a police officer?

No! Really not easy. Let me try and explain what it is like when you are suffering from depression. Actually, I will take an abstract out of my “I am still a Detective, not Defective” blog.

“I was overwhelmed with thoughts of being a failure and being weak. I couldn’t concentrate; I was unable to read anything; written words would dance up and down on the paper. I couldn’t complete the slightest task; I would have to keep walking away every few minutes. My memory and concentration were shot to pieces”.

I was unable to present my case to the best of my ability due to the state of my mental health. I had no energy, no concentration. Each day I would go into the study to work on the divorce. The words would start jumping up and down on the paper, my heart would started beating fast and within a very short time I feel completely exhausted and would have to go to sleep.

I was trying to build a Court Case in this frame of mind, trying to defend my future. I couldn’t read a newspaper headline, I couldn’t go on social media, I could not think, let alone build a case. So, I did the best I could, unfortunately it was in no way good enough.

A few weeks before I had to face him in Court for the first time, he did something truly horrific. It is my belief this was one of his final acts of control over me a last attempt to draw me back in. The days following this he made some horrific threats, wanted me to die. Calling me horrendous names to our son. Our son was doing his A level exams that week and was completely traumatised, walking around white faced and in shock. I could not sleep, I thought he was going to break in and kill me. When I did sleep I had dreams he was going to murder me.

I asked for screens to minimise the stress and fear of seeing him, unfortunately this did not occur and I had to see him in Court at the preliminary hearing. I found this extremely frightening, bearing in mind what had happened, only a few weeks previous.

The day of the final hearing

I was still being told I could not have screens. I was asked this question…

“You are a Police Officer, why would you need screens?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, at that moment I actually wanted to shout out “This is my life! I am a human, not just a police officer!”

It hit me at that moment, what I was actually up against; the Court were not going to get it, they will not understand. They still see domestic abuse as only being beaten to a pulp. They don’t get the mental cruelty, the coercive control element.

I was reluctantly allowed screens, when I explained I was representing myself and wanted to be given the opportunity to be able to do this to the best of my ability. Seeing him face to face after all the abuse and intimidation was too much. His barrister asked me questions, I though; had to directly ask my ex questions and not get emotional, intimidated or upset when I was doing this. I would like to say I didn’t get upset, I did though! It was just too much. When we stopped for a break, I went out the court room very distressed, bumped into my ex and his friend, who both started laughing at me and high-fiving each other.

The day continued,  my case around his lack of contribution and his vile conduct throughout our relationship were both dismissed. Neither was bad enough, apparently.

I now have to give him a huge lump sum by the beginning of January or the Court will put my home on the market. He has also been given 28.9 percent of my police pension, this is a pension sharing order which has already now been transferred over to his pension.

28.9 percent of my pension, everything I have worked for  nearly thirty years, all the nightmares I have had, the child abuse cases I have dealt, the horrific images I will never get out of my head. 28.9 percent of my pension has now gone to someone who hates the police and hates everything I stand for. I will need a lot of help and support to get over the physiological effect of this. I can’t get my head around it! Am I that worthless? Do I not matter?

In these particular circumstances why should any person be entitled to the other’s pension? I understand if one gives up their career to look after the children. However when you are both working full time? How can that happen?

As it stands, I cannot see how I can now afford to send my son to University, I can no longer afford the future I wanted for him.  All because I wanted to leave an abusive relationship.

For personal conduct to become a relevant factor it must be “both obvious and gross, so much so that to order one party to support another whose conduct falls into this category is repugnant to anyone’s sense of justice” (Watchel v Watchel 1973)

The Court didn’t think it was, I will leave you to be the Judge of that.

It takes a lot of courage for any man or woman to stand up and leave their abuser. As a society we should be able to tell them that they will have a safe place to go. That they will have resources to help them and finally they will get justice.

Do I think I have been treated differently by the system because I am a Police Officer? Yes at times. Do my experiences of taking action against coercive control, the stress, the uncertainty and the unfairness give us all an insight into how far we have to go as a society before survivors of this hidden form of domestic abuse can feel confident to speak up? Yes. By sharing my experience I hope to do what I can to improve the situation.

I still keep asking myself, if I could go back 18 months to that final incident, the day when he put his hands around my neck, pinned me up against the kitchen cabinet and went to punch me in the face; would I still have left him, knowing what I know now, knowing what I have lost by just trying to escape an abusive relationship.

Still yes! The answer is still yes, despite everything. The peace of mind I now have is priceless.

The one thing I do know is everything he has taken away from me, my health, my money, my future, my dreams. I will find a way to rebuild and I will have a bright future. I guarantee you that!

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Trigger some may find content upsetting….

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There was a particular time a few years ago when I wrote about a time when I was unwell, with depression. I have no history of depression and have not had it since, I was ill for a short period of time and now I am better.

I don’t regret it at all, writing what I did, I think I helped people.

However…. There has been a slight downside to it all, which I did not foresee at the time. When you write, you write your thing and then you move on. However for people reading; your words become immortalised in time, forever frozen. So I still now get people giving me a sympathetic look and they say “How are you? Hope you are well?”.  I have to stop myself looking behind me to see if they are actually talking to me. And for a good year afterwards the best one was…. “Are you back at work yet?” “Back at work? I went sick in 2013 for six weeks; of course I am back at work!” That’s like me saying to them “How are you? I know you broke your leg a good three years ago but is it really mended?” I know people are just trying to be nice and kind, I get that and I feel a tad mean for having a little grumble but really they should ask themselves why are they still enquiring? It would be different if it was back then, when I had just come back to work, I would have loved it if people had asked me how I was but to still ask am I ok now years later?

I think it perhaps demonstrates how uncomfortable some people still are around issues like depression. Although times are definitely changing and people are generally much more understanding. I think we still have some way to go, I don’t think we are yet at that place where there is absolutely no stigma left and mental ill health is as accepted and understood in exactly same way as physical ill health.

Part of me fears it may be exactly the same as this blog, by writing about uncomfortable subjects, people sometimes think you should for evermore be treated with kid gloves. That it makes you perhaps a weak link, or in some way vulnerable.

So I guess what I am saying, it’s not people like me who talk and write about stuff you need to worry about. Be more aware and kind to the people immediately around you, the ones who don’t talk, the ones that maybe don’t quite seem themselves. Your best mate, your work colleague, a family member, maybe even yourself?

When you start reading the following, you may well be asking “Why on earth are you sharing this?” My answer in return would be “Why on earth, shouldn’t I?” Maybe when you reach the end, you will understand why. I think some people will understand, others might not but that is ok.

So anyway here goes, when I make a decision to publish something I have written, I never do it on a whim.  I spend hours, days and weeks thinking about the possible impact of pressing that button. So please do not think I have not given this considerable thought.  Without doubt this is the right decision for me and in doing so may help others. I have also consulted with people who know me and personally know this story, to forewarn them I am writing this and I have their approval.

My story isn’t really even that shocking, yet even so, all my life it has left me with feelings of anger at being manipulated, plus guilt and shame. These feelings must be magnified many times over for people who have experienced worse.

I do however feel that after this blog, for a while I may take a little break from the heavy stuff and go back to just writing my silly, funny, life observations. Like my early blogs, Death by Cornish Pasty, 1970s white dog poo, or bathrooms and piss witches.

Don’t share your dirty laundry in public!

I agree. I cringe sometimes when I see what people share on social media, be it the fact they have just had a row with a neighbour, or so and so is having an affair with the postman, or even that they themselves have got a nasty case of thrush. Sometimes the world just does not need to know these things.

However what about when someone else’s dirty laundry has ended up in your nice, fresh, clean laundry basket and it festers there for years, making your own washing always feel like it is a bit grubby?

You kick it out! So after thirty-odd years by writing about it that is what I am doing today.

So I think this is the right point where I should put in one of those warnings – the following could be upsetting or triggering to anyone who has experienced the same.

Being groomed by a paedophile

Like many pre-teens, I had low self-esteem and a desperate need to be liked, it is important that I tell you that, so you can understand how what happened next, happened.

What follows now is text book grooming, I know that now as an adult with 26 years in the job, with many, many years in Child Protection. However you have to remember this was back in the late 1970s/early 80s, people did not have such an awareness of things, especially me; I was only a child.

So the old man who lived on his own opposite, he is dead now, been dead for many years. He always seemed to attract lots of children in his garden and house. In the summer he would put the garden sprinkler on all day and the kids would love to play on the lawn and jump through the water. He always had toys and teddies in his windows and house, even though he lived alone and had no young children or young relatives of his own.

I was slightly older than the other children who visited him, I was 12/13 at the time. With me he would help me with my homework, teach me to play chess (to a very high level, I would add) and do general knowledge quizzes. See, for other kids it was all about the toys and the garden sprinkler but I was not interested in that.

I liked reading, writing, learning about life – anything that engaged my brain. That’s what paedophiles do; they find what the hook is for that individual child. So he told me I was important, he told me I was very clever, he told me I was his favourite, and that I was his best friend. He made me feel like I was a special person.

I remember one night my mum wasn’t home, she was ill and an ambulance had taken her to hospital. I was asleep in bed.  I felt someone stood above me, I woke up and he was stood there. It was about 11pm, he had let himself in with the spare key; my mum had given it to him, to be an in-case-of-emergency person. My mum had no idea of what he really was; remember paedophiles don’t just groom the child; they groom the whole family and the whole neighbourhood.

I woke up startled, with him staring down at me, saying “Don’t be frightened, I often like to watch you sleep, you look like an angel when you sleep.” I remember thinking, bloody hell! That’s a bit freaky!  And then I went back to sleep.

Now as an adult, two thoughts have continuously haunted me over the years. The first being Oh hell! I hope he waited until he got home to knock one out. The second, even more disturbing thought was, his words “I often like to watch you sleep.” How many times had he done this before, how many times had he crept into our house to watch me sleep?!

Anyway shortly after this incident, he started to become quite distant and irritated with me.  I felt like I was nothing more than a nuisance and an irritation to him. He never wanted to play chess or chat about life stuff anymore. I felt really rejected and thought it was my fault, that I must be a really awful person. A lot of younger children were now visiting and as soon as they turned up, he couldn’t wait to get rid of me.

That Day

I can tell you everything about that day, up to a point. Even though it was over 30 years ago, it was like yesterday. The image, along with other traumatic events over the years, is forever burned into my brain. However this is one of the most vivid.

I had been over his house when a small child turned up. They must have been 5 or 6 years old at the most. I didn’t know the child, it was just a local kid from the neighbourhood and I have never seen them since. As soon as they turned up, he – as what was now becoming the norm – was desperate for me to leave.

So I said goodbye and I left.

I started walking back over the road to my house, when I stopped. Every part of me told me something was wrong but I was not old enough to articulate in my head what exactly I was sensing. I just knew something was wrong. I just knew I had to go back to his house, and I needed to sneak in, and I needed to be quiet.

I let myself in the house, they were not downstairs. I walked quietly upstairs. I remember stopping for a second and watching the sun shining in through the landing window. I quietly opened his bedroom door, I can still remember my hand slowly turning the door handle. I opened the door and I saw him with that young child… and I saw what I saw.

Time froze at this point, everything went weird in my head, I know now I was in shock. I remember him saying “Please don’t tell anyone!” I replied “I won’t tell.” I then shut the bedroom door, walked back out of the house and went straight back home, immediately told my mum and the next thing I remember were police turning up, and a crowd of neighbours gathering in street.

A male Police officer took a written statement from me in our lounge, I remember it was all very awkward for him and me. I remember him asking me to ‘describe it’ . Me thinking, what? What? Describe what? There was this uncomfortable few minutes where he was trying to give me clues as to what he was talking about and me pretending I was so worldly wise, when really I didn’t know what the hell he meant.

He then looked up from his paper, put down his pen and said “Did he have an erection?”  I answered “I don’t know.” He then said, “You do know what an erection is don’t you?” I can remember so clearly thinking, of course I do, I also know what blow job and wanker is, as me and my mates have been chatting about it at school.

The truth was, I didn’t know whether he had an erection or not. When I opened that door, I saw what I saw and time stopped. I looked away and stared at the bedroom wall in the far corner of the room.  It was shock! Pure and simple, at that point I couldn’t even remember my name, let alone the state of his penis.

Anyway regarding him, he was arrested, pleaded guilty, and went to prison. Then when he came out, he died a few years later.

Me? Well I can’t remember as a child ever really thinking about it again after that day. I know though, following this I started misbehaving. It may have been just general teenage angst, or anger about what had happened, I don’t know. However shortly after I started getting into trouble at school; skiving, being cheeky, smoking, and engaging in risky behaviours.

Haha! I laugh when I say engaging in risky behaviours – the most rebellious thing I did was sticking a 5lb bag of King Edwards under my jumper and walking out of the greengrocers without paying. It is ok, don’t panic, I was never really an evil criminal mastermind, the intention to permanently deprive was not there. I just wanted to see if I could get away with it. I immediately felt terrible guilt and took them straight back into the shop and told the greengrocer I had forgotten to pay. He just sort of rolled his eyes and sighed and that was that.

Prior to publishing I have discussed this blog with a few people to gain feedback and gauge reactions. During this, I have been asked if this is why I decided on a career in policing, in particular is this why a large part of my service has been in child protection. My answer is perhaps subconsciously it was a factor, I really don’t know. What I do know is the moment I finished in Child Protection I felt like I had no purpose. I needed another way to feel I was helping people; this was when I then set off on my mental health and wellbeing at work path to try and help my work colleagues. Although that doesn’t make me anything special, everyone feels like this, we all need a purpose and we all want to feel we are helping others.

So really that is where this story should end. However it didn’t, as I have carried it in my head all my life, buried deeply. Mainly the feeling of guilt, terrible, terrible guilt.

As an adult I would look back and think. You left them there! You left a small child in a room with a child sex abuser. It was only a matter of minutes but still, I have spent years trying to forgive myself for that but it is so hard.  I know I was only a child myself and I know I was in shock, but now I am a police officer for god’s sake, years in child protection. Why didn’t I grab them?! The nightmares I have had over the years where I relive that day… in my dreams I am now an adult and I burst in, I grab the child and nick him.

When I was unwell in 2013, I was dealing with a CP job at work with many similarities to what I had experienced. Nothing unusual with that really, as I had dealt with hundreds of similar jobs in the past, and had never connected the two or thought about it before. However this time because I was unwell, the past where I had unresolved memories was becoming the present. So for example I would go home and wake up having nightmares confusing and connecting the current CP job with my memory of what happened to me.  Him from the past would appear in my dreams.

So one reason for writing this is when someone goes sick with ‘stress’ (hate that saying as it is never just stress) please, please always be kind. That final incident, is very often never the real reason. It can be many many life and work things that have built up over the years.

When they go sick, you might believe they are making it up, you might feel resentful that you are now covering their workload, you probably feel under pressure yourself. That is understandable but please always hold this thought in back of your mind; You don’t know them! You don’t know their past; you don’t know what has brought them to this moment. They really will have not done it on purpose; they most likely feel terribly scared at what is happening to them and feel very alone, I know I did.

I know it is possible, a few people reading this may think, “Well just suck it up buttercup!, don’t be a wuss, just toughen up. Or if you want sympathy, best you find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis as you won’t find it here. And that is fine, as long as this maybe makes them question why they think that then that is all I could ask for.

DCC Andy Rhodes said on Twitter “Emotional numbness is a negative form of resilience brought about by repeated exposure to pain/trauma”.

So, so very true! I think that often happens to people in the emergency services, we look after the public but can be quite hard and judgemental on each other at times.

Just remember these people, these work colleagues, these humans; we are all on the same side. We all have skeletons in our closets, it’s called life and it can be tough at times. So please, please always be kind, it could one day be you, never think you are infallible.

Anyway that is the first reason for writing this, but it is not the main reason.

My main reason for writing is this; it should never have been my dirty little secret in the first place, it was always his.

So today he can have it back!

 

I should have spoken earlier.

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Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men aged 20-45, many men suffering depression still won’t talk about it. A brave colleague of mine has asked If I would share his story with you.

Hitting rock bottom – would you see it coming?

Today I woke with the same tormenting thought I went to sleep with. I put on my public face and went to work. But tonight I find myself writing this very personal account of my experiences with mental illness. Writing this won’t change anything for me, but I’m hoping it might touch or perhaps even help someone.

So what made me write this? It was after reading a comment on Facebook. One person made a negative comment about a colleague taking time off sick due to stress during a school holiday, they felt the person was faking illness. 

I don’t know the truth, nor does it matter but that comment and the immediately reminded of when I had to take a long time off work.  I wonder is that what people thought of me?  My stomach lurches at the thought. 

I am self-sufficient and confident in my strength to deal with anything. I take great pride in my work. The biggest worry I had before all this started was will I finish on time to get home to my family?  

I was happy and I had everything I wanted.

Then one day – CRASH!!

I fell apart; all I could do was cry.

 My mind played tricks on me. I felt so alone, all I wanted to do was sleep and discover this this was all a bad dream when I woke up. It quickly became clear to those around me that I was depressed. I hadn’t realised things had been deteriorating for a while. 

My friends saw it. I didn’t. 

“I’m strong, I’m a Police Officer; I can handle anything thrown at me”. I had to be there for my family.

 My friends knew I wouldn’t listen until I was ready. I was ready now, so I asked for help.

After taking that first step, I saw how helpful the support available was and just said ‘yes’ to everything I was offered. I started researching mental health problems and how to deal with them in an effort to speed up my recovery.

Time went on and to be honest, I thought I would get through it all quickly. But then, the unthinkable happened: things got even worse. In the middle of the year, one unexpected word sent me to rock bottom. 

Then – Suicide.

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I kept this a secret from everyone for a long time. I was struggling to know how to keep going after everything that had happened to me. Taking my own life went through my mind. 

It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t wake up or if I crashed into a wall while driving. I even chose to attend the most dangerous jobs available at work so there was a higher chance of me getting hurt. 

I was so deeply embarrassed that I couldn’t tell anyone. Luckily, there were people around me who saw what a bad place I was in.

My friends visited me, got me out doing things even when all I wanted to do was sleep. I lost loads of weight. I lost all interest in everything and I couldn’t face work. I felt so scared and alone even though I had great friends and family supporting me.

The biggest killer in men under 45 is suicide? As a man who is still recovering from a traumatic break down, I really understand why. You can’t just say “stiff upper lip” and make it all go away. Men are far less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues and the suicide statistics clearly show the impact of that.

As a man, I lived with the stigma that I shouldn’t talk about things. I really struggled to open up and didn’t feel that I could say much. It’s only been the last few months that I don’t immediately tear up just talking about the smallest thing to do with it.

Whatever the cause, the signs that someone is struggling are usually the same. People just aren’t themselves. It may be obvious why they are suffering, although some will go to great lengths to conceal how they really are. That doesn’t mean you should give up on them. Just be there when it’s needed and above all, don’t judge.

Part of me was surprised by how much these events affected me. We police officers see awful things and deal with traumatic and difficult situations regularly at work. We are called the thin blue line for a reason! One in four of the population suffer from mental health problems. Worse still, nine out of ten of us on this thin blue line will be affected at some point. I’m not saying we all are going to break down as severely as I did. But we must never think (as I used to) that we are immune from it. Depression, anxiety, stress, low self-confidence and even PTSD – the list is endless. 

I have since spoken to people, and it was so helpful. I spoke to a nice counsellor on the phone – it was my first step. I moved on to seeing a counsellor at Occupational Health, which was the first time I have ever sat and spoken to someone so freely about what I was thinking and feeling.

I am not better – far from it. I now accept that what’s happened will take a very long time to adjust to. My life is different now. I’m still me, but now I know I’m not indestructible. We all have limits – having the courage to ask for help is often the biggest hurdle. 

I end on a quote from J.K. Rowling:

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuild my life”

Stay safe, look deep, and don’t be embarrassed to accept help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Be Frank!

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So some of the people who were so very supportive of my ‘I am still a Detective blog’, have the last few months written and sent me their own stories.  I have their permission to share some of these with you.

Today we have….

Frank’s Story

I am a police officer and have been for past 14 years, in 2011, I began experiencing some physical symptoms at work such as high heart rate, high blood pressure, dizziness and chest pains. I didn’t realise I was having panic attacks.

I didn’t realise what was happening, I thought that all panic attacks involved hyperventilation and breathing into a paper bag. Some do, but not all.

A good example can be seen in the movie Iron Man 3, where Tony Stark (Iron Man) experiences panic attacks.

After a long time I was diagnosed with having Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Bipolar Disorder (historically known as manic depression). Both conditions come with a variety of psychological, social and physical symptoms.

Essentially, GAD causes my brain to slip into “fight or flight” mode for extended periods at inappropriate times. So the reaction your body has when you are, for example, in a foot chase, or dealing with a violent suspect, will occur when I am in the supermarket or undertaking other mundane activities.

I can feel nervous or anxious much of the time, for no obvious reason.

Bipolar disorder means I have periods of depression at times, at other times periods of mania where I feel euphoric, over-excited, busy and cannot sleep.

Robert Downey Jnr’s (yes I am a fan) portrayal of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and the movie ‘Silver Linings playbook’ both provide examples of bipolar characters.

Some others that suffer from this condition include Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher, Jean Claude Van Damme, Catherine Zeta Jones amongst others. So at least I am in good company.

I am glad to say that, although I am still managing my conditions, with a combination of treatment and support from my family and friends, I am feeling better.

My advice to others based on a few things I have learned during my journey so far:

Look out for each other- Colleagues may spot the signs that someone is under stress before they do. In 2011, I thought I was a bit overworked and didn’t realise I was having a breakdown. If you are concerned about a colleague, have a chat with them and check they are alright.

Do you know someone “off with stress?”- To be honest, I’m not a fan of this phrase. It diminishes what may be a serious and complex situation for the person involved. Consider that there may be something more going on and that there is no such thing as ‘just’ stress.

“Eeek! What do I say?”- People who encounter colleagues who have mental health issues may feel uncomfortable, for fear of embarrassing or upsetting them. Don’t worry, just ask a simple question such as “How are you doing?” They will appreciate this far more than being ignored.

It’s all in the head- Many mental health problems can be evidenced by changes in brain structure and hormone levels. It is possible to objectively evidence that someone has a mental health issue.

“Its not that serious”- Depression and other mental health issues are the primary cause of suicide. In 2012, the World Health Organisation identified suicide as the second leading cause of death worldwide. In Canada, the UK and US, more soldiers died as a result of suicide, than in combat during 2013. Suicide can be preventable.

“We were both at the same incident and it didn’t bother me”- It is unusual for a single incident to cause mental ill health. It will likely be a combination of a number of factors over an extended period of time. If someone becomes ill after an incident, it is possible that this is a reaction to months, or years of suffering in silence through situations that are more traumatic.

The chances are my story has received a variety of reactions but that is ok, I love talking about mental health and I hope I can speak up for those who don’t feel able..

 

My first Blog…I am still a Detective, not Defective!

It has occurred to me, that my first blog I wrote in 2014 is not on here, so as it had a pretty positive reaction and practically has been life changing for me, it is only right that I put it on here.

I would also like to say thank you so much to everyone who liked it and shared it since, it has given me confidence to carry on writing.

I am still a Detective, not Defective!

I am a detective constable with 24 years service. I recently had a breakdown and subsequently was diagnosed with depression.

This was caused by too much stress over a long period of time.

I am writing this because I feel one of the last taboos is talking about being in the police and recovering from this type of illness.

I want to help others understand more about stress and depression, how they can spot it in others and how they can reduce the risk of it happening to them.

More importantly I want people to know it is not the end of the world, that afterwards you can have an even happier and contented life than before you fell ill.

I believe more police officers and staff are suffering from stress than ever before. Stress related illness is on the rise and can have a devastating effect on the individual, colleagues, friends and families. And there’s the cost to the organisation with people going long term sick, and some not returning to the job. I believe stress statistics are never going to be accurate due to the amount of people who go sick with stress but then make up another reason for the sickness. They do this because of the stigma that’s still attached to stress and depression.

Stigma

Freak! Unstable! Lazy! Weak person! Get a grip! You’re making it up!

Let me get one thing perfectly clear. Depression means you are the complete opposite of these things.

“Depression is certainly not a sign of weakness but absolutely is a sign of being too strong for far too long.”

I can only talk about me and my experience. Everyone’s story is different, however I do feel there are common personality traits that can make a person more vulnerable to depression.

Personality traits

Reliability; (moral) strength; diligence; strong conscience; strong sense of responsibility; tendency to focus on needs of others before one’s own; sensitivity; vulnerability to criticism; self-esteem dependent on the evaluation of others. Most of those are police officers to a T!

So what happened to me?

After I had my son I started suffering from anxiety. Sometimes I could control it and push it out of my mind, other times when I was stressed it was more intrusive. I would be driving, in particular on motorways, and have a terrible fear that I was going to crash. I would keep having irrational thoughts, always worrying that the worst would happen in every situation.

I know now that this is called catastrophizing.

I have also had periods of panic attacks; at one point it got so bad I ended up in A&E convinced I was having a heart attack. I would check things a lot – I would walk back in my house many times checking gas rings were off.

I had awful sleep patterns; I would wake with a jump and see sudden vivid images come into my head like a lorry crashing in front of me. I would also over react to sudden noises like a balloon popping or fireworks going off, a bit similar to that Catherine Tate character who screams when the microwave goes ping.

It actually made me feel like I was being attacked. My reactions to a sudden noise were completely over the top.

It was like my fight/flight response had gone wrong and I was always on alert.

It wasn’t constantly awful but it was always there in the background to a certain degree. It was only when I was going through stressful times that it all seemed to get out of control.

What tipped it over from stress and anxiety to depression?

2013 was the year where things went very wrong.

Normally I would go through stressful periods like everyone else does and then things get better but this time it wasn’t getting better. I had been in the police for 24 years, many years in Child Protection/Public Protection Unit. I enjoyed my job which is why I’ve done it for so long and I feel perfectly capable of dealing with the type of cases that I deal with.

I felt it was a combination of events – the increasing work pressure, last five years of going through promotion process, feeling I was constantly jumping through hoops but not getting anywhere. This combined with anxiety problems, my own personality characteristics and some traumatic events in my past meant I was heading full speed towards a complete breakdown.

So what actually was my breakdown, what does that word even mean?

My head started spinning; my brain was racing with too many thoughts crammed in. I was coming home and being stressed and irritable with my family. I was smoking and drinking too much wine to try and relax. Normally I would be trying to exercise and do healthy things to combat stress but this time I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t switch my head off; I remember one evening trying to watch television and breaking down in tears sobbing to my husband, that I was so scared as my mind would not stop racing.

I stopped seeing my friends, I stopped any hobbies, I used to dread the phone ringing as it meant I had to focus and concentrate on whoever was phoning. I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling as that would have taken mental and emotional energy and I had not one bit of it left.

So I completely withdrew from friends and family.

“I felt a fraud like I was pretending to be happy but I was not really. The world just seemed grey; there was no colour left anywhere.”

Each day felt like I was wading through treacle and little tasks seemed huge. I over worried about everything. I felt like I had let everyone down, I felt like a failure.

So how was this affecting my work at this time?

Everything I am describing is being done retrospectively. When I was going through this I did not have the clarity of mind to realise I was ill.

For months I kept breaking down at work, I would overreact to the slightest thing and start crying. Not even a few tears but proper sobbing. I had no control over this, it was like I had no filters left on what was an appropriate reaction or not.

I know now that people were worried about me. In the summer my boss told me he thought I was unwell and that I should go to my GP. I was in complete denial and thought ‘what does he know? I’m just a bit stressed’. Under duress I agreed to visit my GP, where I underplayed how ill I was feeling and left.

So I carried on at work, in my head I really thought I was just a bit stressed and it would pass.

The straw that broke the camel’s back moment

Towards the end of the year I was waking up feeling worse than I did the day before, a fear of dread of going to work and getting through the day. In my head I was thinking, ‘come on, stop being so weak!’

I had planned a spa day with my mum and sister and each day I was thinking ‘come on, a few more days and then you can have a day to relax’. I really felt this one spa day was going to solve everything and I would be back to normal

Then my rest day got cancelled and I could no longer have my spa day. I completely lost the plot in the office and became hysterical, proper snot bubbles coming out of my nose and sobbing uncontrollably. I can still picture the look of horror on the faces of my colleagues and supervisors.

The next day I went back into work as I had a barrister’s conference. I popped in to see my detective inspector and tell him I was on my way to the conference. Instead he told me to sit down and told me in no uncertain terms he thought I was really ill and needed help. He told me I was going home and that the decision to go sick was being taken out of my hands.

“I remember thinking that’s it, my career is over, I have stuffed everything up and I am a complete and utter failure.”

The first three weeks being off sick was my lowest point, the office was particularly busy and I felt I had let my colleagues down. I was extremely paranoid thinking that everyone at work must be talking about me; I was overwhelmed with thoughts of being a failure and being weak. I couldn’t concentrate; I was unable to read anything; written words would dance up and down on the paper. I couldn’t complete the slightest task; I would have to keep walking away every few minutes. My memory and concentration were shot to pieces.

After a while, when it was clear I was not getting better by just resting there, was a bit of an intervention from my friends and family. With their support I went to my GP and at last I was honest about how I was feeling.

The GP signed me off sick for another month, diagnosed me with depression and prescribed anti-depressants. I went home, phoned occupational health and arranged counselling. Occupational Health have been so supportive, absolutely fantastic.

Going back to work

By mid-January the meds were starting to have an effect and although not fully recovered, I felt I had got as well as I could at home and I wanted to continue getting better whilst back at work. I needed routine and normality. In careful consultation with my GP, occupational health and bosses at work it was agreed that over the following month I would slowly build my hours back up. The reduced hours were non-negotiable and it was a condition I needed to agree to, to take the first step in getting back to work. That first day returning to work was so scary. I just wanted to get that moment of walking through the office door on the first day back over and done with.

The personality characteristics I have that made me ill in the first place were exactly the same ones that I now wanted to go back to work.

For the first time in ages I felt I had fire and determination back. I wanted to fight for what I felt was right for me. I absolutely refused to come back and be stuck in a broom cupboard because bosses may not know what to do with me.

Luckily for me and this part was crucial to my smooth return to work, I had bosses that listened to me. I explained I felt I was less of a risk than people currently at work who were suffering stress and depression but did not yet realise. So it was agreed I could go back to my normal work but with a clause that we had regular reviews and that I continued to be honest with them in how I was feeling.

The Elephant in the room!

I am not talking about my weight gain either. That was another effect of the depression, weight gain. A year of downing vast quantities of wine whilst eating lard and doing absolutely no exercise meant I was now packing a fair bit of extra timber.

Anyway I digress. I meant the other elephant in the room – what to say to other people! Should I say something? Should I not? What do they think has happened to me? What do they know?

In the end I decided that I was not going to make any big announcement, I would just crack on with my work. Slowly over the weeks it all just came out naturally, chatting to people on a one to one basis.

So that brings us up to date really. I am now back full time, getting stuck in, a bit of overtime and just generally back to normality.

“The whole return to work experience has been made much easier by some very supportive bosses and friends, you know who you are!”

I am still recovering; my concentration is still not fully back. I have days where I’m extremely tired; those days I just need to be aware not to overdo it and after work go home and relax.

What advice would I now offer?

To anyone who recognises themselves in all this, then please try and get help. You really cannot do this on your own. Start by talking to someone you trust. Once you are honest with yourself and able to admit that things are not great then you can start the slow process of unpicking the reasons it got this way.

Colleagues

If you see someone acting consistently out of character and you are concerned about them, then speak up. They may be at a stage where they are so deeply entrenched in their illness they do not have the self-awareness to know they are unwell.

Police officers are naturally suspicious and we need evidence to back things up. Well, with this type of illness you don’t always get direct evidence; there is no visible injury, no cast on a leg for example.

Instead of thinking ‘unless I get evidence that tells me they are ill, I will assume they are pulling a fast one’ consider taking a default position – ‘I genuinely believe they are ill, unless I get concrete evidence to suggest otherwise’. That would be fantastic. 

Although to be honest no rumours or nasty comments are in any way as awful as the thoughts that person is most likely having about themselves.

Just remember a little bit of basic human kindness and compassion costs nothing and goes such a long way.

If someone goes sick, a simple text that you are thinking of them will mean the world to them. If you want to go the extra mile and offer them support tell them, so they know who they can contact. The isolation from colleagues is one of the worst parts of it all to deal with.

For me on the whole;  I have been lucky to have had colleagues that have not judged me, not jumped to conclusions and have been supportive.

Bosses

Listen to what the person is telling you; don’t think you know all the answers. No one knows them better than they know themselves. A move to a broom cupboard or making it someone else’s problem is really not the best solution. The easy one maybe. But not always the best one.

Anyway as I said at the beginning if I can change just one person’s views or help someone suffering the same, then my work here is done.

I realise putting myself out there like this is opening myself up to being judged and opinions being cast. However what other people think of me no longer worries me like it did last year. To be fair what other people think of me, is really none of my business.

The Telephone

This blog was meant to be a silly blog about my thoughts about the telephonic device, no more or less than that.

Then I started thinking but people may start to have expectations that I am going to always chat about mental health and policing, they may now be disappointed. Now don’t get me wrong, I do have more writing I wish to do in the future on that topic but I just don’t want to write about that all the time.

What I do for a job, is just a LITTLE part of me, I am also a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend. All of those things make me the person I am. Therefore I have lots of different life stuff that I shall be wanting to chat about over time.

I joined Twitter about 18 months ago, as I wanted a place where I could just be me, somewhere to be creative and write my blogs. It was important that it was a place where I didn’t have to overthink and over analyse everything. Where I could just breathe and be happy, or sad, or angry, or just plain stupid and have fun.

Recently though I have had a dilemma as some of the people who follow me know who I am in real life. So  I started thinking “Shit, I have to behave now, I can’t swear, I shouldn’t have too much fun, I have to be who I think people expect me to be”.

Luckily the part of me who has now had counselling in form of CBT and EMDR started talking sense to me. That part of me started saying “No! no! people are following you because they like you, they do not want you to be anything other than what you are. Plus in the future if they decide you are not for them, they can just unfollow you. It matters not!

So anyway for now that is all I want to say about that. So let us move on to-

The Telephone

Stupid, stupid thing it is! I am talking mainly about the landline and I apologise in advance if I offend the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell, truly I do. I just am not that keen on the telephonic device anymore.

Let me explain why.

If the home phone rings, I am always without doubt-

A. In the bath

B. Cooking dinner

C. On the toilet

It is just the way it is. So I will always answer the phone in a grumpy vexed manner, as you have interrupted one of those above activities, plus I expect you are going to be a cold caller, which regardless, the very thought of cold callers always makes me furious.

So the conversation will not start on a good footing anyway and you will sense the huffing and grumpiness in my voice.

I am not sure exactly when the point occurred when the sound of my home phone ringing made me feel a tad violent, perhaps when I turned into a grown up and life got busy.

Although I do remember a particular time when I was a teenager. I had fancied this particular boy all through school, he did not know I existed, let us call him Rob.

I also knew another boy called Rob who was a good friend of mine. One day I was at home, funnily enough sat on the toilet. My mum shouted out to me “Robs on the phone!” In my head I was thinking oh great, I am on the flipping toilet. So I huffed and reluctantly went downstairs and took the phone. “Bloody hell Rob, I was right in the middle of a poo!, Rob?, Rob? why are you talking in a strange voice”

Yep, wrong Rob! It was in fact the boy I had the most massive crush on for years, phoning up to ask me out. The conversation was very awkward from that point on and he didn’t call me back and we never went out.

I think that was the moment, I decided I did not like telephones.

Anyway my message to you is just text me first asking if you can phone me. Isn’t that what most people do nowadays? Send a text saying, is now a good time to phone? If you do not do this, then maybe you should start.

That way I will be jovial, pleased to hear from you and we will have many good telephone times.

The End

 


 

 

I am a boss in the emergency services, I feel alone and I need help!

   

My head has been spinning for months, I have too many thoughts crammed in, my mind is too busy and I can’t switch off. I am not sleeping. I go to sleep and I wake with a jolt, suddenly seeing a horrific image in front of me; someone being stabbed, someone dying or a car crash. Very vivid images that make my heart beat fast, I am shaking and covered in cold sweat. The adrenalin is pumping through my veins, like I am in a life or death situation.

But I am not. I am in my house, I am in my bed. I should feel safe but I don’t. I am so scared.

What is happening to me?
The next morning I go to work. I have an important meeting, a presentation. This is nothing unusual, I do this most days…I stand up to speak. Today however something goes very wrong. My mouth dries up, I start shaking, and my heart starts pounding like it is going to burst out my chest. I continue to try and talk, aware that I am gasping for breath and my vision starts tunnelling down. I manage to finish what I need to say and I sit down. I cannot look people in the eye, they must have noticed.

What is happening to me?
Weeks go by, I start losing my confidence, and I don’t understand what is going on. I keep second guessing myself, full of self-doubt. I feel like a complete failure, yet I am supposed to be a leader. What a joke! I feel so weak. I am in a senior position, I am supposed to look after my staff, they are so stressed at the moment and I am failing them. I don’t deserve this position.

I go home back to my family, yet I feel alienated from them, completely detached, like I am watching them through a TV screen. My partner wants to chat but I feel too drained, where do I start? When I don’t understand it myself? I am so tired, so dead inside, my head is racing; the last thing I want to do is talk. I want to escape, so I open a bottle of wine again, same as last night.

I enjoy writing, I am often on social media. Recently though, I am second-guessing everything I write. I can’t have that opinion, I am a senior leader, I might be criticized. I can’t make that funny comment, it might be offensive? I don’t think it is offensive but what if someone else found it offensive? I had better not ever get annoyed and be rude to anyone either, even though they are enjoying baiting me; they know I cannot respond as I have a position to uphold. When really I just want to say, you are a complete twat! Please F**k off!

But I cannot say that. My position means I can not swear, I am not allowed to show emotion, certainly not anger or hurt.

So instead I go to bed, I fall asleep and I suddenly wake with a jolt, seeing a horrific image in front of me, someone being stabbed, someone dying…

I am a boss in the emergency services; I feel alone and I need help.…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
This is not me by the way, as I am not a boss. It does not matter who, if anyone it is referring to, that is not the point. My point is mental health problems can happen to anyone. In the emergency services it can happen to anyone regardless of gender or rank.

These are such stressful times, more now than ever before. Much change, increased demand, harsh criticism, severe cutbacks, increase workload, changes to pension, no pay increase and now the worry of job security.

I strongly believe that long-term stress and anxiety can lead to more serious illnesses like depression and that is what happened to me. Luckily I never had a history of depression before this so hopefully it was a one-off event. Although I certainly now have an awareness of the warning signs.

However I don’t want to make this blog all about that, as I covered that previously in https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/newsroom/features/i-am-still-a-detective,-i-am-not-defective!/

The years leading up to falling ill, I would fret about everything, it was so draining! Now I allow myself to be me and stop over-thinking about everything. What is the worst that can happen? I might one day make a little mistake and get it wrong. Well just shoot me now!
I have to trust that after many years on this planet, regardless of being a police officer, my own moral code can stand me in good stead on its own.

At moment everyone is quoting Peel “The police are the public and the public are the police” So yes, a good reminder also to remain individual and be true to yourself.

Another sport I am not that keen on is boss bashing! Now don’t get me wrong I have done my bit of that in the past, but after my blog I received hundreds of emails, many from bosses, saying they had experienced the same. I came to a sudden realization that they are human too. A proper shocker it was!

Chief Constables and other very senior officers would terrify me in the past! If I ever had to meet anyone of this ilk I would absolutely crap myself. My legs would start shaking, my stomach would churn and if I opened my mouth the wrong worms would come out.

You see in my head I would always be thinking that they may suddenly want me to tell them verbatim an obscure section of PACE; or they may want to see my pocket note book, or they might want me to tell them word-perfect all our missions, values and objectives backwards, or maybe even quote the Brownie Guide Law. Who knows?! I just know I need to keep my wits about me, oh god I feel sick! Just go away senior police officer you are making me very stressed.

After my blog, I was lucky enough to be invited to quite a few events where I bumped into the above species frequently. I knew I needed to come up with a tactic to stop myself freezing up and appearing like a moron in front of them. So the only way I could do it was to try and think of them as humans and one of my mates. It was a very successful ploy and once I had adopted it there was no stopping me. Plus I noticed a funny thing happened, in return they were also able to chill and started chatting to me in the same manner also.

Admittedly I was in the lucky position of meeting them in relaxed settings. As I don’t think telling jokes, showing them my double-jointed elbow, and my party-piece of making owl noises would have worked in a job interview or any other formal scenario.

I was chatting to one of them several months ago at a mental health event. I had already told him my jokes, I had showed him my double-jointed left elbow and I was getting to the stage where I was wondering what we could now talk about.

So we started talking about his interactions with staff.

He told me he often went to the canteen at lunchtime and would like nothing more than to sit down and join a table of fellow police officers and join in with their banter and chat. He missed being able to do that. He couldn’t do it as he was painfully aware when he entered the canteen, all eyes would be on him. He did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or awkward by sitting and talking to them. So instead he would just grab a sandwich and quickly exit out of there and go back to his office and eat alone.

I thought that was sad and how lonely he must sometimes feel.

I wonder who’s fault that is for that situation arising?, his or ours? Maybe we should stop seeing them as these different beings to us and get comfortable just chatting away to them. Although clearly there are other times, when we need to listen and do what we are told. A major incident for example, when we need to just follow instructions, not debate or argue. But outside of this?

Of course you get some complete and utter idiots, some pretty unpleasant people but they come in all ranks and all different walks of life. If you have interacted with one of them even briefly, then that makes you qualified to have an initial opinion on them.

However when people have never even met a person, they just jump on the band wagon of, “I just can’t stand them! They are egotistical, they must have walked all over people to get where they are, they are just out for themselves, and they don’t care about us!” 

Really?

Is it possible, just possible, that many are good leaders and that in the current climate, they may be struggling also?

Being part of the emergency services family, means looking out for all, regardless of rank. Now more than ever the saying, united we stand, divided we fall, should mean everything to all of us.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
  

Worst holiday ever! 

parrotshow

I have just booked my Easter short break. It got me thinking about UK holiday parks. Now don’t get me wrong I love them, you cannot beat a weekend away in a caravan pouring with rain and a bit of bingo in the evening. 

 I love people watching at Holiday parks. I love seeing all the smiley, happy, serene, contented families passing by. 

 Although In particular I am fascinated by THAT one family; where one of them is bearded, 20 stone and covered in tattoos. That is just the wife that I am talking about.  The husband will be the one whose knuckles are dragging on the ground, grunting and he will drinking a can of cider for breakfast.  The poor children will be snotty, grubby and a tad feral. 

 You know the family!  The one where the parents get plotted up early for the evening entertainment and smuggle booze in, normally in a pop bottle. 

 You can see them trying to be all secret and stealthy filling up under the table. 

 Although the price of a round of drinks in those places, I don’t really blame them. However they then spend the night, getting more pissed, louder and more obnoxious as the evening progresses. The children will go missing and they will not notice. You will come across the children at the end of the night searching for pennies in the arcade, whilst the toddler is passed out with tiredness resting his head against a fruit machine. 

 On the way back to the caravan they will have a fight, with anyone they can. If they can’t find anyone they will normally turn on each other. 

 Now don’t get me wrong, I am no snob and I am not talking about most people. Just that one family, who will be at EVERY holiday park in the UK, at any given time. God love em! Or maybe it’s just me; maybe I am unlucky to bump into the same family every time I go away. 

 So then I started thinking about summer holidays abroad, now most of mine have been fairly pleasant experiences. A bit of sun, a good book and then in the evening a parrot show and a dodgy disco, you could not want for more. 

 I am not one of those types who go away and moan and complain about everything. The ones who then come home and write a crap review on trip advisor, I think it makes them happy. Normally they are only prepared to pay pennies and then expect 5 star facilities!! Sorry you are not going to get it, be realistic! Or top tip next time you book your holiday try booking it through moononastick.com they may be able to help you. 

 But this one holiday to Portaventura theme park in Salou. The place we stayed in! Well where do I start. 

 My expectations were pretty low before I arrived, it was a cheap break in the sun and trip advisor as normal was making me nervous with its reviews prior to going. However I had decided I was going to be all happy, smiley and optimistic throughout and make the most of it. 

 It did not help that on arrival late at night we were shown our rooms, we were taken through the hotel and straight out the back entrance along a street that I fondly christened dog shit alley. 

 The porter took us into a building that looked like it had once been a residential block of flats that the hotel must have bought.  The porter stuck my husband and the suitcases in one lift and me and the children in the other lift. Husband happily made himself to the second floor where our apartment was situated. 

 Me on the other hand!!! 

 The lift doors opened and I was presented with a brick wall. The doors shut again and shot down to the basement, we got out the lift in complete darkness. We could then not get back in the lift as you needed a key for the basement level on the lift. I had to ring husband on my mobile for him to come and find us down in the basement. It was all very traumatic.

When I walked into our room I wanted to cry it was horrific however I refused to be beaten, instead I went all high pitched and over the top exclaiming how lovely it was. I think really I was already a bit hysterical. 

 The first night older teenage son, who for the first time was of an age where he had an adult wrist band, Well he befriended some other lads and went off and took full advantage of the all inclusive booze. To the extent that night, he plastered the whole apartment in sick,  I stayed up all night with him, clearing up sick and being scared to sleep in case he choked on his own vomit. 

 Another incident I clearly remember that week and will forever be etched into my memory is…. 

  

Sunbed wars 

 You read about it but I never thought it would happen to me. Well I was sunbathing with this lovely family I had met, hubby was not there at the time, neither was younger son, they were in the apartment. Well this big man came over to me and demanded he have my sun beds as he had been going to the same place for ten years(he was a bit, you know, a bit common in his approach). 

I told him, no, No my family will be there soon and their towels are on the beds. He said he did not care about such things and he grabbed younger son’s towel to chuck it off the sunbed. I grabbed the other end and a tug of war commenced. He said “I am going to damn well lie on your sunbed lady!”. 

I replied “I do not think so mister”.  

With that I launched myself like a starfish across three sun beds to prevent him from carrying out his malicious act, whilst yelling to older Son “Go get Dad, for the love of god, go get Dad” 

 Older Son being all dramatic ran to the apartments and told him I was in a life or death situation. So he came storming out to the pool and everyone, everyone was staring. He is a big chap and when he walked out, it all went quiet, like a Western with nothing but tumbleweed blowing. The nasty sunbed man went all sheepish and quiet, he said sorry and went about his business. Honestly it was like an episode of shameless abroad. I was mortified. 

 What was even worse was when we got home, someone had written the incident up on trip advisor, a very detailed account. I read it and I was furious, incandescent with rage.  It was written by a young family who had been sat in front of us that day. The part that made me cross was this… it said that the man was being vile (correct) and he was arguing with an elderly lady. 

 ELDERLY!!!! Me ELDERLY! What a liberty!

Death by Cornish pasty.


I had to catch a train today, I love train stations as more often than not there is a pasty shop. I am quite partial to a nice Cornish pasty especially when the weather is a bit nippy. I purchased my pasty of choice and went up onto the platform. Where an elderly lady in a rather smart pastel coloured mackintosh started chatting to me. The conversation started as normally does with the British, by her saying to me how cold it is today. My default reply to these sort of statements is always “Yes it is a bit nippy” Even when I really do not even think so, I just see it as the polite thing to say.

I shall digress slightly and just get a slight niggle out the way, I understand the pleasant chit chat about the weather to strangers. I also get global warming is making all our seasons a bit weird and we don’t really have definite Summers and Winters much anymore. BUT! …

What does humour me is all this sensationalized, dramatic reporting of the weather recently.  Newspapers and social media go mad as soon as there is a drop of sun in Summer or a light frost in Winter. 
 
Summer gets translated to such words as blistering heat wave and water shortages. To the extent you envisage that you have suddenly been dropped into the middle of the Sahara desert. A mild Winter gets reported as snow blizzards, hurricanes and torrential rain.   
 
No! Just stop it! Its just weather, it always has been, it always will. 
 

Although I get if was reported correctly it would be a bit boring, suddenly seeing shares on facebook of there is a light breeze today which may cause your recycling bin to move slightly out of position and your hair may get a bit disheveled.

Anyway lets get back on track, so the pleasant conversation with the elderly pastel mackintosh lady continued. She starting telling me about her nasty winter cough, whilst I was replying “Oooh that sounds nasty”,  as we were chatting about coughing, it made me want to cough. So I coughed but because I was chatting and eating a Cornish pasty at the same time, it all went a bit wrong. A bit of swede, or potato went down the wrong way. What I definitely do know is the offending item was NOT carrot, as everyone knows proper pasties do not have carrot.

So I started choking and coughing and spluttering, I then proceeded to cough and spit tiny pieces of Cornish pasty all over her pastel mackintosh, she seemed a bit nonplussed about it.

I would like to add also, if Hagrid the Great is reading this. No! I do not purposely pick on elderly ladies, I practically am one! 

 

You see last Summer when Hagrid came to stay, I took her to Cheddar for the day in search of a nice bit of Cheese and also Cornish pasties. We were walking down a narrow road over a bridge and Hagrid says I was stomping ahead, very one tracked in my mission to find pasties. Apparently I nearly knocked an elderly couple off the bridge into a stream below. I have no recollection of that event, although when my mind is on pasties or Cheddar cheese anything could happen.

So where was I, Oh yes I was at the point where I was turning blue through lack of breath. So at the point many people on the platform were turning and looking at me due to the weird noises I was making. I decided to walk off and go to the ladies toilets before I made an untimely demise. So I walked off along the platform making loud noises; that I could only describe as what you would imagine a deranged donkey to make. Now train station platforms do have quite an echo so by now everyone, EVERYONE is staring at me including people on the opposite platform.

Now this is a bit of a nightmare for me when I think people are watching me walk. 

You see whenever I know people are watching me walk, I start over thinking my walk and I try to walk normally but instead I start walking like Max Wall.

So I disappeared down the stairs, went into the ladies toilets and luckily I found my breath, I composed myself and walked back up to the platform. 

 
The two thoughts in my head at this point, was I hope I have no spat pasty on my chin or clothes and please don’t let me walk like Max Wall again. I returned to where I had been sat, the lady in the makintosh had relocated further down the platform. 
 

People were still eyeing me suspiciously, in a she looks a little bit unpredictable manner. A man sat next to me, I frantically searched for something to say to get normality back. So I turned to him and said “Its a bit nippy today!”

Then the train came so I got on it.