Sticks and Stones

Last week was anti-bullying week. I have written about my experiences of bullying in previous posts but every time the campaign resurfaces, my old bullying demons decide to rear their very ugly heads.

Having gone through years of being bullied at every single school I attended, I went out into the workplace at the tender age of 16 thinking I had left all that behind, only to discover that not only was workplace bullying a common occurrence but that I was to be granted no reprieve and became a victim once more on several occasions.

I am yet to reconcile my feelings of anger over what happened to me. I still boil with resentment when I think back to how so many different people treated me. In my experience, girls are the worst. They can be vicious, vindictive and downright evil when belittling someone they consider to be beneath them. During my latter school years, they almost drove me to suicide. In one work place, a particular tormentor managed to turn all my colleagues against me.

No one helped.

My friends could only do so much. I was lucky to not be totally alone as some victims of bullying are. My home life wasn’t a happy one so I kept a lot from my parents and retreated into my books and music, squirreling myself away in my room to be alone with thoughts of worthlessness whirling around my head.

Bullying is one of the most psychologically damaging experiences a person can go through. At a young age, those seeds of discord are sown so deep that the roots will remain long after the experiences have been consigned to the past.

I am no longer a victim of bullying, I am a survivor but it still hurts.

My heart breaks every time I read in the news that a child has killed him or herself as a direct result of being bullied. Why aren’t the bullies being arrested and charged with murder? Why aren’t their friends or parents being arrested as accessories to the crime? Because that is what it is. Driving someone to take their own life is murder.

I understand that a lot of bullies become the way they are as a result of their own unhappiness, they lash out and pick someone who they perceive as being too weak to fight back. Then again, there are some who bully simply because they get a kick out of it, in my opinion, this makes them a sociopath.

Whatever the reasons behind their actions (reasons or compulsions?) I will always loathe those who seek to destroy the essence of a person, make them feel worthless, that life isn’t worth living, that no one loves or cares for them. I know this to be untrue. Victims of bullying tend to be those with the greatest potential. We’re the geeks, nerds, the wordy kids, the kids who are bit different. Ultimately, we are better than those who belittle us.

To all the bullies out there who may read this, just remember, karma has a very long memory and she is more vicious than you can ever be.

Ruby Redfort, Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me.
Stones and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the word-swords fall, it pierces and sticks inside me.
Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its’ scar, on mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises have not healed, it’s words that I remember.

Random Stuff

I stumbled across my first real problematic chapter yesterday in the editing process. In the end, there was nothing for it but to print the damn thing and go over it by hand. I think I’ve cracked it though and will do the digital edit today. At least I am now past the half way mark so the end is in sight!

I did a little baking yesterday and made some peanut butter and chocolate flapjacks. They’re adapted from a recipe in the 15 Minute Vegan cookbook. They’re still vegan but I used Sweet Freedom Chocolate Syrup and agave nectar in place of Flapjacksgolden syrup. They came out beautifully; so much so that I may have to hide them from my boyfriend!

For anyone reading this blog who is into similar music to me (rock all the way!) I would like to mention a band by the name of My Soliloquy. This little known group have a new album coming out on the 14th September by the name of Engines of Gravity. As my aforementioned boyfriend is the creator of this band, I’ve had the privilege of hearing the completed album and can say that it is a stonker of a record. Proggers, metalhead and rockers are all catered for and I invite you to check out this band and their previous endeavours.

That’s all for now 🙂

My Soliloquy Band Page

Man of Much Metal – Engines of Gravity Review

Progressive Music Planet – Engines of Gravity Review

Editing: A Necessary Evil

Since putting my pen down, tidying the notepads away and sitting back with the smug feeling of having written my book; I am now at the stage which has filled me with some trepidation.

Editing.

I follow lots of writers on Twitter, many in the same boat as me, we’ve sailed the river of writing our fast draft but now find ourselves alone, navigating the choppy seas of editing. I must admit, a lot of writers have made no bones about the fact that editing can be a labour intensive, boring process but one that must be done to get the book into a more cohesive, second draft.

I have waited three weeks since downing the pen and revisiting my manuscript and I enter the process as a complete novice. The thought of cutting words, whole paragraphs, characters even is a scary prospect and I must admit, I went gently with the first couple of chapters!

However, today’s editing process felt a little different. Chapter 3, a good chapter (I believe) but which the direct influence of LOTR was screaming out of it, demanded changes and those changes have been made. Maybe not as brutal as it should have been but I don’t want to do anything too drastic and alter the tone completely. The story is still my story and the 3rd draft will provide further opportunity for more changes.

So, for anyone reading this who is perhaps still working through their 1st draft and worrying about it being any good: don’t be. Your 1st draft is the outline, an introduction to the world you’re creating and the characters within it. It’s the first stepping stone on the way to completion.

This is an old article but it is very useful and this is the guideline I’m working with as far as the editing process goes:

Writers’ Digest – How To Edit Your Book

In the meantime, feel free to add your comments about editing here, learning from other writers is invaluable!

I’ve Written A Book…Now What?!

A week ago today, I placed my pen down, closed my notepad and realised, “I’ve done it. I’ve actually written a book!”

How anti-climactic it felt, this huge achievement, that there was no fanfare, no ticker tape and, more importantly: no wine, (an oversight that has now been rectified). I wanted to cry with joy both at finishing the damn thing and completing it in the most ordinary of places: the sofa.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during the writing process is that the first draft isn’t perfect, it’s never meant to be perfect. The first draft exists as the progenitor to all other drafts that come. It bears the main crux of what the story is about, who the characters are and where they’re going. What I will need to work out over the coming months is how to expand on that story further, flesh out the characters, trim the fat and tighten it up into a real page turner.

I have written the story I would want to read; that much is true. The characters who have taken up residence in my head finally have breathing space and purpose, they’re free to run amok and create chaos in the world I have created for them.

I have written 37 chapters, two of which are the prologue and epilogueNotepads, 90,820 words (80,000 original target) over three notebooks (I write long hand) and dedicated as much time as I could over the last five years to getting my book written.

My story has had many incarnations over the years. When it first popped into my head in my mid 20’s  it had a very different plot but the characters were basically the same. I used to write on a digital typewriter so the pages were there instantaneously but, life, as you know, has a habit of getting in the way on occasion so I dipped in and out of writing for years before really getting down to it.

Even as a kid I used to write but I was very plagiarist back then (even though I didn’t know it). I once wrote a story called The Secret of Sarah Willow which was directly influenced by the fabulous Wolves of Willoughby Chase but at least I was exploring the ability to write. Who knows, I may return to that story one day and write it from my own imagination and not that of someone else.

I digress…

What next? According to my research and other writers I’ve connected with via places like Twitter the main consensus is to have a break from the book (someone said two months!) so I can go back to it with a completely fresh outlook. I’m not sure I can wait that long as I’ve written in such fits and starts over the years that sometimes I’ve left it more than two months between chapters so I’m thinking a couple of weeks might be in order. The prologue was written in 2012 and having glanced at it recently, I’m pretty sure that it will need an overhaul as will most of the very early chapters.

But, how many drafts and rewrites should I do? Do writers get to a point where they think, “That’s it, I can’t do anymore?”  or do they keep going?

Should I find an editor first or beta-readers? An agent or a publisher? (I’m thinking to try for an agent first). Is self-publishing better than e-publishing? What’s a good way of marketing my work?

So many questions!

It’s safe to say however, that, if I ever had a bucket list; then writing a book would definitely be on it and I can happily tick it off

 

Tell Me No Lies

I appeal to anyone with a modicum of sense to stop taking as gospel, the continuing smear campaign perpetrated against Jeremy Corbyn by the right-wing media. It’s time these people woke up and smelt the coffee.

Let’s start with the “news” papers shall we? It’s in their interests to keep the Tories in power so their owners can continue their lavish lifestyles and demonise anyone who doesn’t toe the line of Tory rhetoric.

So, if you read The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Times or any of their subsidiary publications you are being manipulated by their unfair and completely biased reporting. It’s also scary that you would allow yourself to take what they spoon feed you as absolute gospel. Why would you allow this instead of getting the facts for yourself?

Which brings me onto my next point. Corbyn being painted as a full on supporter of the IRA and terrorist sympathiser. This is simply not true and again, why are people believing what is being spouted to them by the gutter press? Why not go and investigate the facts for yourself? Corbyn has condemned violence on all sides of the struggle and supports the fight for peace when it is conducted in a civilised non-violent manner. I could be photographed in a room full of Tory supporters (gods forbid) but it doesn’t make me a Conservative (hell no!) Corbyn believes in round the table discussions and diplomacy, he doesn’t believe in violence. When it came to Hamas and Hezbollah, Corbyn is being vilified for the use of the term “our friends.” You know what? It’s a colloquialism, not a reference to them being best buddies. He was hardly going to invite two opposing factions for a discussion and refer to them as “our enemies” was he? That wouldn’t have been very diplomatic would it?

People forget that back in the 80’s, Margaret Thatcher was friends with General Pinochet and Robert Mugabe. Ruthless dictators responsible for the torture, imprisonment, murder and displacement of untold thousands.

Now, I don’t pretend to be the most politically savvy person to walk the earth but I’m savvy enough to know when facts are manipulated and fiction is presented as truth. These are the reasons why I don’t read the newspapers.

So, where do I get my information from if not the “free press”? Well, I’m connected to a lot more politically savvy people on Twitter than myself, I research and read independent publications and blogs and I’m so bloody minded that I will always stand by my views.

I also have the benefit of experience. Of growing up in a poor family of Tory controlled Britain in the 1980’s, seeing first hand what the Tories were capable of even then. Having a parent be one of the 3 million unemployed because cuts made to British manufacturing meant no job came without the threat of future redundancy. My parents suffered massively in those days and as a young child, I didn’t fully understand what we were going through. I grew up on a council estate, on benefits, free school dinners and hand me down clothes whilst my parents worked hard, scrimped and struggled to achieve a better life for our family.  Every single penny mattered to us, where it came from and what it was spent on. I would never wish that kind of existence onto another family but it’s still happening today and when I hear people being told to “work hard”, I just think, “some have to hold down two or three jobs to get by, if that’s not hard work then what is?”

For the NHS Jeremy Hunt wants a U.S. style system where it’s all done through insurance but a glimpse at a medical bill in the U.S. is heart stopping and those bills come in the second a patient sees a doctor or gets into an ambulance. Imagine having to deal with that if someone you love had just died in a terrible accident or you were on life support and returned home to thousands of pounds worth of debt? What if you couldn’t even afford the insurance? What then?

I’ve heard people say, “don’t have kids if you can’t afford to pay for them”. I think that’s such a crass, sweeping statement that generalises and demonises poor families into one category: “scroungers”. This makes my blood boil. Family situations can change at any time; you could be ticking over nicely until the company you work for decides to close its doors and relocate to the Far East in favour of cheap labour and manufacturing costs. Mass redundancies  in one area has a huge impact on unemployment figures and social funding. Thousands of people in one town or city aren’t suddenly going to get snapped up for the same jobs elsewhere. So what, there are people who do scrounge (I believe they’re called bankers, hedge fund managers, billionaire non dom tax exiles etc) but if you’re thinking of those who pop out a couple of kids to get a council house, remember this – they are the minority and do not represent the majority of those in need but it’s just too damn easy to bully the less fortunate isn’t it?

If you’re voting Tory because of Brexit then I have to ask you, what makes the NHS, public services, emergency services, schools, the disabled and mentally ill (all of whom have suffered extreme financial cuts) far less important than whether or not we belong in the EU? Where has that magical £350 million a week for the NHS disappeared to? (It was on a big red bus if you remember).

What about the environment and the terrible damage caused by fracking when it’s clear that renewable energy is the way forward? What about animal welfare? 80% of the British public opposes fox-hunting but we’re being ignored. The Tories have even dropped their pledge to ban the ivory trade condemning elephants ever closer to extinction.

Does any of this matter to you?

If it does, give it some thought. You might change your mind, you might not. The decision is yours but don’t let the media and the press make it for you.

World exclusive: #Corbyn – Mowlam’s ENVOY, met IRA AND loyalists

The SKWAWKBOX

Word reached the SKWAWKBOX during the writing of this article that the Sun has been trailing that it’s ‘going big’ on Jeremy Corbyn at 10pm this evening. If it’s preparing another IRA-related smear after it disgraced itself with its ‘Blood on hands’ attack, which appeared after the terrible events in Manchester on Monday, it’s going to have egg on its face.

The Sun is not the only right-wing publication to attempt the same smear. Another rag carried a cartoon showing masked terrorists campaigning door to door for the Labour leader.

Such smears could not be further from the truth – which the SKWAWKBOX brings you exclusively.

This blog has spent a significant part of this month talking to various people on both sides of the republican/loyalist divide, digging to get cast-iron confirmation, from people who were there, of one core fact:

Jeremy Corbyn’s was an envoy of the British government who…

View original post 1,375 more words

National Vegetarian Week

From the 15th to the 21st May, vegetarianism is being properly celebrated. I’m ignoring the narrow minded Twitter trolls who love to bully us veggies because they’re the ones making the choice to live in ignorance.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this lovely recipe I threw together at the weekend. Feel free to adapt to your own tastes. Even meat eaters can adapt this for their “needs”.

 

Risotto recipe

Apologies for lack of pictorial evidence but thedish went down rather well and was polished off before the opportunity arose!

The World’s Greatest Blogger…

Ok, so that’s a huge exaggeration as I contemplate my meagre offerings to the Bloggersphere over the last year or so.

But, it does spark a question. What makes anyone or anything, “The World’s Greatest…”?

Is it by being prolific, blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking etc. every day or does that just make you a pest and an attention seeker? Is it the quality of your content i.e. a message so profound that it has far-reaching appeal and gets people talking even though you might then disappear for a few months?

I often wonder about this when I read through my various social media feeds. I know for a fact that in the world of blogging, I am a small fish in a large ocean but that’s fine with me. I say what I have to say, I guage the reactions (if any) and I respond to comments because it’s the courteous thing to do and it’s right to show appreciation.

But, everything has a dark side and this is my problem with social media. On Facebook, users can be as open or as private as they like but it’s the one application where you are laid bare. Some people update their statuses at an alarming rate or have thousands of “friends” (not realistically possible) offering their tuppence-worth and if it’s someone you don’t know particularly well, that can lead to all sorts of problems. I’ve seen a simple reply or comment escalate into virtual war, people blocking each other and never speaking again because something has been taken so out of context or misconstrued.

Social media has removed people’s ability to interact with each other on a human level which is disturbing. It’s almost sociopathic.

So, I shall get back to my scruffy notebook and pen, lose myself in the world of Horizon Skies and it’s characters who don’t need mobiles, internet, social media etc. Because they inhabit a world where none of that exists and I consider that to be glorious.

Love & Hate

Today, I came across the news of the brutal and shocking murder of transwoman Dandara dos Santos in Brazil. The filming of her murder, which has gone viral, has led to the arrest of some, but not all, of the perpetrators. The crime, shocking in its ferocity and of taking place in plain sight of residents of the area is sadly, one of hundreds being committed against the global #LGBTQ community every single day.

Whilst I struggle to get my head round the facts of what she was put through, how she begged for her life and the utter fear she must have felt in her last moments, it saddens me further that despite living at a time when people of the rainbow can express themselves freely, come to terms with their sexuality, their gender type and being “different” that there are still those who seek to persecute, harm, humiliate and ultimately kill them.

I ask, what have these people ever done to you? What has caused you to have so much hate in your heart for someone who was born in the wrong body? Boys who grew up and realised they liked other boys instead of girls and vice versa?

I put out a Tweet today that simply says:

If someone is not educated on a subject of which they know little they are ignorant of that subject. Ignorance breeds fear for, if you are ignorant of something, how can you understand it? If you don’t understand it, you begin to fear it, hate grows from that fear. What do people do when they hate something? They attack with no rhyme or reason.

So many perpetrators of these crimes claim to be Christians or of some other religious persuasion and they feel justified because to be #LGBTQ goes against those teachings. Well, hang on a minute, isn’t “God” supposed to be all merciful and forgiving? In Christianity, aren’t we all “God’s Creatures”? If so, shouldn’t we ALL then be treated equally? The hypocrisy of religion and it being used as an excuse to persecute minority, gender or ethnic groups is enough to make my blood boil.

The expression, “that’s so gay” has become a buzzword to be used in a derogatory and insulting way when having a bit of banter. I hear it a lot in my office environment, on social media etc. even in Shaun of the Dead (ok, the script is fiction but, even so). How has a word for sexual orientation become an insult in a day and age when society really should be past all that crap?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Education is the key. If our schools adopted a broader approach to sex education, including sexuality, gender identity etc. then surely, kids will grow up with a better attitude towards it and it just becomes part of society’s fabric. If religious people could look past their zealotry and realise that fear and hate just make things worse in society then surely they could live their lives by the better teachings and look past the hypocrisy.

In countries where society is still lagging far behind, I can only hope that the rest of us can set a better example. We need stronger laws to protect the rights of the #LGBTQ community and people need to learn that just because someone is gay, transgender etc., it doesn’t make them a danger to others (why is that such a common misconception?) It smacks of a kind of arrogance when straight men are afraid of gay men. What, do you really think all gay men are dying to get into your y-fronts? I think not.

Take the blinkers off, broaden your mind and educate yourself. If you are one of the lucky ones in this world who doesn’t suffer abuse and persecution then how about lending a helping hand to those who are suffering? You don’t have to go on a Pride March in your best Spandex but allow those people who do to live their lives with as much rights and freedom as you have.

Dedicated to Dandara dos Santos x

 

 

London is a Paradox

A place that evokes romantic visions of a glittering city built on the famous River Thames, home to millions from all walks of life. For many, it’s the centre of the universe. However, it’s also home to extreme poverty, rampant homelessness, high crime rates and the place where, quite literally, manners have gone to die.

I fell under London’s spell back when I was a young Brownie on a day trip to the Natural History Museum. The big, busy streets, grand buildings and black cabs were like another world to the one I’d grown up in. As I got older, day trips to London were still immensely thrilling; seeing the London Eye glide past as my train pulled into Waterloo Station would give me a frisson of excitement and I could not wait to be out, mixing with the swell of commuters and tourists like I was one of them, like I belonged there.

Moving there in February 2005 marked a major change in my life and a huge step forward to achieving something I’d always wanted.

The first six years there were brilliant. The first place I lived was in a flat on the Isle of Dogs, my favourite part of the city. For the first couple of days though, I felt a bit nervous of going out and just stayed at home which was really silly as I was finally in the place I’d always wanted to be, I soon realised I should just embrace it! My first proper venture out was straight to Oxford Street and after that, it was just a question of familiarising myself with the area and my commute.

From the Isle of Dogs, I eventually moved to New Cross in South (or Sarf) London which was an interesting place to live, to say the least. Living there taught me to be streetwise, it was a completely different vibe and feel to the East End (which I loved) and I got to know places like Peckham, Lewisham and Deptford.

Back to the Isle of Dogs I eventually went, a nice house share with some nice people, back in my comfort zone. A house sale forced another move and I ended up in Muswell Hill in North (or Norf) London. As different to New Cross and the Isle of Dogs as day and night. As lovely as Muswell Hill is, it does have a every elitist element with its posh shops, quirky restaurants and the sort of yummy mummy element parodied on social media. It didn’t suit me and I only lived there for ten months before high-tailing it back to the Isle of Dogs.

Alas, the dream had to end and end it did. With the advent of the Olympics in Stratford, rents and house prices in East London began to sky rocket. People were being turfed out of their homes so greedy landlords could rent them out for three or four times the normal rent just for the few weeks of the event. I moved further out to an area of South London where I ended up staying for three years.

I’d never liked the general attitude of people in the city. Rudeness and selfishness go hand in glove there. Manners are a thing of the past. Getting on and off busy tube lines is like a rugby scrum, some people think nothing of elbowing, kicking, pulling or pushing someone out of the way just to get on a train. Ridiculous really, when the next service is usually only a couple of minutes behind. The cost of living is beyond what most people can afford, travel is very expensive, it’s overcrowded, dirty, smelly and not very safe.

I remember being on the District Line one morning, travelling to work as usual and a thought popped into my head; “Why am I doing this?” I had a real moment of clarity and knew that the time had come, I was ready to leave.

How fortunate it was, that I changed jobs in 2014 and discovered that my new employers, being a very large company, had offices outside London. Less than a year after starting my new job I had relocated lock, stock and barrel to a beautiful market town in the country. I have gorgeous countryside all around, a car instead of an awful train journey, a 3-bed house cheaper than my 1-bed flat, a nice office to work in and my stress levels have massively reduced.

So, whilst this post isn’t written to put anyone reading it off the idea of ever going to London I would just like to invite people to think about why they might covet the idea of going to live and work there. As I discovered, London is not the centre of the universe; there are so many other cities and towns in the UK with thriving prospects, vibrant life and better opportunities. Ok, the wages may be a bit lower but this is offset by lower cost of living, lower house prices etc.; it’s all relative.

I do have very fond memories of my ten years there and I enjoyed my life. I had a lot of fun, met loads of interesting people and made some lovely friends so don’t think for a moment that I regret it because, I don’t. I guess I’m just older and wiser now 🙂