Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Malefic ConDems' Idealogical War on Welfare

This is a personal account of my journey from inert citizen to politicised activist.

In whose name?

[Video description: Kaliya Franklin's speech - you may know her better as Bendy Girl; © Graeme Lamb Media via Youtube.]

"Over two hundred people rallied in Manchester’s Albert Square on Saturday in opposition to government cuts to support for disabled people. Similar demonstrations were held across the country as part of a national day of action called for by the Hardest Hit campaign." (Manchester Mule)

I was one of those two hundred or so people freezing in the Mancunian chill & damp on Saturday 22nd October 2011. At forty-seven I was attending my first ever political rally and in a wheelchair to boot. The evil done and which continues to be done in the name of and at the behest of the Conservatives and their lackeys, the misnamed Liberal Democrats, via the unconscionable wraiths in the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has had and is having dire consequences that ultimately will touch most families. Disabled people are committing suicide, attempting suicide, harming themselves, starving, freezing, deteriorating because of withdrawal of all or some benefits and/or support or even just from the threat of it. And this in twenty-first century Britain - I can no longer bring myself to use the term Great Britain! I have written elsewhere about the similarities between what is happening in the UK and what occurred in fascist Germany (Nazi Treatment of Disabled). I was asked this past week by a fellow-sufferer where on a scale of 0-10 I thought we are in respect to a potential genocide; I responded about 1934.

[Image description: the author in wheelchair, helper & a fellow activist behind being interviewed by reporter from Manchester Mule (manchestermule.com).]

On Tuesday the twenty-eighth of August 2012 I went on my second ever political demonstration, this time outside the offices of ATOS in Manchester. This inevitably required the storing of spoons and the expense of taxi fares for the eighteen mile round-trip from and to my home. Thankfully I did not have to do much self-wheeling as a fellow activist loaned me his strapping son for the occasion.

My comments are quoted several times in this Manchester Mule article (q.v.), in this article (q.v.) by Black Triangle (blacktrianglecampaign.organd in this article (q.v.) from the very personable and witty Lipstick Socialist (lipsticksocialist.wordpress.com). I personally am non-partisan but have voted throughout my life for candidates belonging to the as was Social Democratic Party (SDP), the as was Liberal Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Green Party or independents. I would have been a Macmillan-type Conservative, but Mrs. Thatcher and the Tories lurch to the right repulsed me, as did the Labour Party's concomitant destructive and unappealing in-fighting. I am a liberal with a lower-case ell. This means I am open-minded. I want to see the evidence and judge for myself. The evidence that has been accumulating under the current coalition government's duplicitous austerity drive is one of harm, destitution and in some cases death.

[Image description: the author holding a placard which reads, "32 die a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit [ESA]."]

Since the demonstration the figure of thirty-two deaths per week occurring within six weeks of the notorious work capability assessments (WCA), the DWP's own earlier figure, has been revised upwards to more than seventy per week (q.v.) per Disabled People Against Cuts (dpac.uk.net) at the end of November 2012!

Not in my name!

No-one in power it seems is going to stand up for disabled folk. I have chatted (q.v.) with the president of the LibDems, Tim Farron, and asked a direct question (q.v.) in person of the leader of the opposition and the Labour Party, Ed Miliband. Neither of them was willing to make comments in support of disabled and/or chronically sick people. Neo-liberalism or neo-capitalism holds sway amongst all major parties. The weak are left to fend for ourselves. And so, I have become a sort of activist: I tweet & retweet; I sign & share petitions; I facebook news items; I blog about our troubles.

And now I am actually directly involved in the WoWPetition, against this phony war on welfare, or social security as it used to be more aptly called. I have paid tens of thousands in taxes and national insurance contributions on the understanding that the State would support me if my circumstances became straitened. Such has occurred for me and many, many others. And now the State has unilaterally pulled out of the contract despite having taken the dues. If they were an insurance company they could have been sued via the courts. Unfortunately courts in England tend to side with governments, so it is unlikely we could seek redress there. And, in any case, any such action would take years, in which time thousands more are likely to suffer and many more die.

The WoWPetition website, wowpetition.com, and the attendant forum, wowpetitionforum.co.uk, will over the coming days and weeks provide facts & figures, true tales of disabled and/or chronically sick folk and much more besides. Please visit them if one requires more information. To join in with conversations:
on Twitter @WOWpetition & @WOWpetitionchat; or,
on Facebook WOWpetition.

Join my name!

Whatever, I hope each and every reader will sign the WoWPetition either via the official website (click link above) or here. If you do sign, I should greatly appreciate if one would add a comment below to that effect.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Battlers in the ME/CFS Wars!

I abhor conflict. I intensely dislike argument (as opposed to debate) for its own sake. I find folk who goad others objectionable. I hold intemperance, discourtesy and disrespect towards others as vices. Unreason and illogicality are symptomatic of ignorance.

Unfortunately every day I encounter these foibles in my interactions between individuals on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, on blogs and in the comments sections under Media articles.

Their expression demonstrates a weakness of spirit by those engaged and reveals much about the writers: their bile, their hates, their bitterness, their insecurities.

Perhaps no where else do I see such negativity as amongst those on the various sides, and indeed within factions on those sides, of the ME/CFS issues. Professor attacks professor; doctor slings mud at doctor; sufferers squabble with each other. The levels of mutual suspicion and antagonism might be considered laughable if it were not for the inexorable consequences. It is pure folly!

Where in all this diatribe is the coming and working together to the benefit of patients and the advancement of medical science? Resources, time and energy are being squandered for no material gain. It has to stop and now.

I personally would try almost anything for my condition to ameliorate and have tried many things. I will give it a go whether it is an off-licence drug, a physical activity or a psychological approach to get better and I do not care one iota for all the petty - for that is what they are - opinions. I do not give a fig what the illness is labelled, just uncover what are the cause(s) and try to discover a treatment or treatments that is/are effective.

It's time to calm down, don thinking caps and try to find a route-map out of this asphyxiating infirmity. Please! I do not want to remain in my bed-cell or wheelchair for the rest of my life.

[Image description: five persons round a table smiling, two are shaking hands across the table; another stretches out a hand. © Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Monday, 3 December 2012

Who represents disabled folk?

I recently had a twitter discussion (q.v. if so wished; I am @criquaer) with the erudite Neil Crowther (@NeilCrowther, who has his own website neilcrowtherconsulting.com which is well worth dipping into and reading) in which we debated the relative merits of the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Now I am not particularly learnèd in the area of the EHRC but I have had several interactions with them, none of which ended fully positively.

I started this blog because of concerns about the EHRC, see Disabled Travel and the Equality & Human Rights Commission which gives some slight background. For more detailed information refer to Wikipedia.

"We have a statutory remit to promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine "protected" grounds - [including] disability..." EHRC

Now I am just a layman, but that suggests to me that any area of life where disabled folk do not have equality is up for grabs and ought to be an area of concern for the EHRC.

According to the Office for Disability Issues (ODI), a part of the Government structure:

Post-19 Education
  • Disabled people are around twice as likely not to hold any qualifications compared to non-disabled people, and around half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification [7]
  • 20 per cent of working age disabled people do not hold any formal qualification, compared to seven per cent of working age non-disabled people [8]
  • 14.5 per cent of working age disabled people hold degree-level qualifications compared to 26.8 per cent of working age non-disabled people [9]


  • According to the Labour Force Survey, disabled people are now more likely to be employed than they were in 2002  - the employment rate gap between disabled and non-disabled people has narrowed slightly by 5.8 percentage points and currently stands at 29.9% in 2012
  • However, disabled people remain far less likely to be in employment. In 2012 46.3 per cent of disabled people are in employment compared to 76.2  per cent of non-disabled people

From these statistics it can be seen that disabled folk do not have parity in educational and employment outcomes. Given the huge differences this can only be put down to discrimination and/or lack of equality of opportunity. These problems have been known about for more than a decade. Here one can find the link to the EHRC's statement on how they are addressing the various conventions within the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Perhaps the EHRC are actually doing something proactive. Have the general public heard about any such actions? To be fair are the ODI doing anything? Anyone, other than specialists and consultants, heard about their work? Is the UN doing anything?

The European Commission has a European Disability Strategy which advises that:

The strategy's targets for the first five years include:
  • devising policies for inclusive, high-quality education
  • ensuring the European Platform Against Poverty includes a special focus on people with disabilities. The forum brings together experts who share best practices and experience
  • working towards the recognition of disability cards throughout the EU to ensure equal treatment when working, living or travelling in the bloc
  • developing accessibility standards for voting premises and campaign material
  • taking the rights of people with disabilities into account in external development programmes and for EU candidate countries.

Disabled folk are dying "with recent evidence of 73 deaths and suicides per week" in relation to Work Capability Assessments (WCA) per Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). What action have the EHRC, ODI, EU or UN taken? And if they are doing something, why do we not know about it?

One might argue that disabled folk should not expect governmental bodies to look out for their interests, that really it is up to the individual to do so. Of course, many disabled folk are just not able to do so. This is where charities are supposed to step in. Well one of the ODI's favourites and 'privileged' charity is Disability Rights UK (DRUK). Amongst the disabled community they are infamous because of their chief executive's Sayce Report and have lost much credibility for being seen as the Government's henchman, specifically in relation to Remploy. On 28th November another group of charities became tarnished, Sick and Disabled Claimants Now to Be Sent on Workfare (by the same charities who claim to support them) including:

"Charitable Work Programme sub-contractors include @scope,  @MindCharity, @mencap_charity, @RNIB, @LCDisability, @salvationarmyuk, @AddactionUK

Charities who exploit workfare staff include @thebhf, @barnardos, @age_uk, @CR_UK"

Since then Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation have decided to withdraw from the workfare schemes and Scope are reviewing the matter. This discrediting of charities, who are supposed to be supporting us, has meant a damaging backlash and concomitant fall in trust. See for example the comments after Neil Crowther's article for DRUK To eliminate hostility towards disabled people we must cut the deficit.

My suggestion to Neil Crowther was:

 Or actually seek disabled folks' views (not charities') for our priorities to determine their agenda. 

He responded:

 why do you believe was based on charities views? EHRC had & has a statutory Disability Committee made up of disabled people

 like Jane Campbell, Mike Smith, Alun Davies, Andrew Lee, Rhian Davies, Kirsten Hearn & Saghir Alam

I doubt many of us have heard of these grandees. I myself have only heard of Mike Smith and that is due to correspondence with the EHRC.

Why should not all the organisations in this article seek out the opinions of their users, donors and stakeholders? Why do we little people not get to have a say? There will always be a need for specialists and experts, but that does not mean that we should be told our priorities or have our choices decided for us. Of course, there will always be a need to give some weighting to minorities within our community who otherwise might never get a say, such as BME disabled folk, or LGBTI disabled persons (which includes myself!). But that alone should not be used as an excuse not to have regular listening exercises and consultations.

Who represents we disabled? Who should?

This article is part of "International Day for Persons with Disabilities".

Thursday, 29 November 2012

IDPD 2012

Monday 3rd December is International Day for Persons with Disabilities. According to United Nations Enable:

How the Day may be observed

Based on the main theme of IDPD 2012 “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and
accessible society for all”, sub-themes can be selected to cover all aspects of society and development, including, but not limited to, removing barriers to education, employment, transportation, travel and tourism or sports. You can select a sub-theme to address a specific issue of exclusion and accessibility in your community.
Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all stakeholders – Governments, the UN system, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the removal of barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society that would benefit all.
Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the themes of IDPD 2012 to find innovative ways and means by which barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families can be broken down.
Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase - and celebrate - the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change and development in the communities in which they live.
Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action that would help to remove barriers that limit accessibility for and participation by persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development.  Highlight progress and obstacles in creating accessible and inclusive society, including in terms of physical environments, information and communications technology and other areas, as well as promote public awareness of existing barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their societies.

A blog article will appear here on Monday entitled, "Who represents disabled folk?" I hope you will come back to read it. %)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Lack of Updates

Many apologies to my two followers and all my readers for the lack of blogging. Really under the weather with my conditions at the moment. As soon as I have more energy I shall get back to researching and writing. %)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

BlogCamp: Review

The level of concentration required for live-blogging BlogCamp last Saturday was enough to knock me for six over the past few days. (See previous five posts all of differing length!) My dyscognition flared with a vengeance; apart from my body succumbing to between twenty and twenty-two hours of sleep per twenty-four hours. This has meant my usual routine of keeping apprised of current events globally, nationally and amongst my relatives, friends and acquaintances via social media has also taken to the back-burner. I still feel completely shattered; but in a rare moment of cognitive clarity, I thought I had best blog before I faze out again!

[Image description: BlogCamp logo ©]

I thoroughly enjoyed the live-blogging aspect. It was great to convey instant impressions and perceptions. Although, I was unable to keep as strict an eye on my grammar and vocabulary as I would normally, due to time limitations and the need to publish asap (as soon as possible). Furthermore the established comfort of my shelf of dictionaries, grammars and thesauri was not readily available to me as at home. This forgoing of some aspects of control felt liberating. Perhaps another behemoth aspect of my OCD has been slain?

BlogCamp was not what I had expected. Partly this is because the announced agenda was supposedly to include usage and development of Google’s Google+, which did not come to pass, and partly because I, erroneously as it transpired, anticipated a blogging-for-beginners course. Unfortunately for the uninitiated, such as myself, the language of blogging is an impenetrable jargon and alas no glossary was provided. This site was mentioned, that app and t’other plug-in. A-huh: no idea what was being discussed for much of the time; it could have been quantum mechanics for all I knew!

Nonetheless, I did glean the odd gem of information and in due course I shall attempt to apply these to my own blog. I definitely think that video-blogging is the way to go for me. This is partly because visuals are one of the most sought-after types of information, and thus likely to increase traffic to the blog. However, from my perspective as a disabled person, I can imagine that speaking my ideas etc. might be an easier way to access my blog for blind and partially sighted folk. The only draw-back I potentially foresee, is the looming of my stutter/stammer. Although, if I learn how to edit my videos, I ought to be able to work around this impairment.

For someone sensitive to sound, the din of around one hundred womenfolk all attempting to make themselves heard was a veritable cacophony. For the most part I retreated to the relative calm of the venue hall whilst the hens clacked away in the communal zones.

Interestingly, the vast majority of bloggers in attendance were female. This could be due to the organisers predilection for baby, toddler and foodie blogs. Or perhaps this is true in general in the blogosphere? Still, I did chat to several lovely ladies, some of whom wish to remain in virtual contact.

I left BlogCamp at The Studio with a contented smile on my face and a sated stomach - what more could one hope for?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

BlogCamp: Part Five

A break for luncheon: a delicious choice of salads, pasta, meat for the carnivores, bread, olives, hummus,… And miniature bread & butter puddings in espresso cups with pouring cream. Yummy! Who could fail to be sated.

Next up were Becky and Tom Arber who have their own brilliant blog-site, www.ar-blog.co.uk (q.v.). Their lecture was entitled: The Silver Bullet?

[Image description: three snaps from the Arbors website, © Tom Arber]

They spoke entertainingly using a balanced combo of the informative, the humorous and, naturally, the photographic. The main points were:

How to take pictures
Techy tips
Post processing

They suggested using Instaprint via Instagram to get great shots printed up. But beforehand one may need to utilise Blogstomp for manipulating the photographs into interesting images.

[Image description: three more snaps from the Arbors website, © Tom Arber]

BlogCamp: Part Four

Ruth @geekmummy talked about video-blogging. Her main justification is that YouTube is the internet’s second biggest search-engine. I see the wisdom in her justification.

However, given my caution on using imagery and thus Pinterest, I doubt very much I could yet make the leap into video. Nonetheless, I perceive immediately that this would be a great way to discuss ideas and notions. It was suggested by a member of the audience that, instead of talking to camera solo, have someone to chat with to add a more realistic dynamic.

There then ensued a Big Bang Theory nerdy, geeky discussion of technology. ¿Qué? … Oh lordy!

BlogCamp: Part Three

So, I now know that the expert blogger is named Cathy James (and her blog is NutureStore). She has an extremely clear delivery and good enunciation. She is full of creative and common-sensical concepts.

Pinterest - everyone knows what it is, Cathy avers. I am the only dissenter. I must be so out of it. Folk keep mentioning this site, that site, this app, that app. I think an interactive white-board may have been useful so that key names could have been flashed for reference.

Pinterest looks fabulous. I shall have to ponder how I might use it. This blog is primarily an ideas and notions pool. I have added photos and pictures to retain interest especially on longer blogs. Could these images be turned into gateways to my blog? I am sure it is possible.

BlogCamp: Part Two

Did not catch the speaker's name, but she set out with some clear goals:

1 community

2 feedback & ideas

3 traffic
4 extending your influence beyond bloggers (on Facebook as opposed to Twitter)
5 secret societies

But very quickly I was lost in the expert bloggers' lingo, an impenetrable jargon full of references to alien beings or Latin plant names for all I knew.

: I have no idea what the speaker is going on about: it's like a foreign language. Using too much jargon... %S

 I need really basic stuff - I'm completely lost now! %(

Pee break & bland latte ensued.

BlogCamp: Part One

Well, after struggling with Manchester city centre’s notorious one-way system, and only a couple of screaming matches with my (wonderful) driver because I cannot tell the difference between left and right (never could), we almost drove past 51 Lever Street. I was looking for The Studio. The name was on a billboard inside the foyer, not on the outside. The window-wall was however emblazoned with huge numerals denoting 51. Driver kindly reversed and deposited me on the kerbside - too high for me to mount; so I walked to the corner to hobble across the dropped kerb. And so to the entrance. Thankfully, a very kind concierge came to my assistance and bade me welcome whilst directing me to the third floor via the lift (elevator).

A couple joined me and prattled on the journey up, through the doors and then assumed I would open a pull-door whilst laden with two bags, a hoodie and walking assisted by two sticks - Oops! Suddenly brought their conversation to a rather abrupt halt as they realised they would have to affect ingress.

Inside, I eventually managed to get the very pretty receptionist to speak loud enough for me to hear what she was attempting to convey. She pointed me in the direction of coffee machines, seats and pastries - CAKE! I joined the queue for coffee. Alas, by the time I reached the equipment coffee was there none. Hot chocolate, hot chocolate or hot water were the only items on the menu. Erm… hot chocolate then.

After half a beaker of a so-so beverage, and a tasteless (but gratis) apple Danish, I sat down to type. A lass who had said, “Hello” whilst I was noshing, came over and sat down beside me. Heather and I had a good natter, before the hordes began to stream into the debating chamber.

10.30 Welcome to BlogCamp
10.45 Boost your blog audience
11.45 Coffee break
12.00 Become a video star
12.45 Lunch
1.30 Photo wizardry
2.30 Coffee & cake
3.00 Getting things done

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Crush, a Bromance, a Friendship Ends - A Sexual Peregrination Begins

Thirty years ago this September gone I had my last in-depth conversation with one of my best friends from my school-days. To save his blushes, I shall name him AF. In the previous August AF had declared to one of my friends that he and I loved each other. I was rather stunned to hear such a declaration: seventeen year old lads in the rabidly homophobic early nineteen-eighties did not tend to go round making such avowals. AF had left the education system at sixteen to pursue an apprenticeship, so there was no possibility of him being ribbed (or worse) in the school-yard. The other friend was from outside the area so unlikely to broadcast an exposé. I was touched and, in the giddiness of the revelation, automatically agreed with the sentiment and averred that I reciprocated.

In those days I was not really aware of my own sexual proclivities as such and for much of my life have led a hermetic asexual life-style (for reasons I may one day blog). In the eighties there was no ready access to pornography or explicit queer literature. I would not have known what to do sexually with my friend in any case. There were certainly stirrings in my loins which I did not understand; but no erections, no masturbatory fantasies. I experienced wet-dreams for years before some school lads explained the mechanics of masturbation in sufficient detail that I could work out what to do. It certainly prevented the nocturnal emissions. However the onanistic pleasure was a physical, sensual thrill from turning myself on and making my body feel so vital. It had not occurred to me to fantasise about masturbating someone else, let alone sexual intercourse. The school-boy term for anal intercourse was ‘bumming’; but I thought this just meant bouncing on another’s bum (buttocks)! Ah, wrong end of the stick as usual due to my dogged naïveté...

Up to that point I had spent countless hours with AF: holding his hand whilst sitting beside him; linking arms whilst walking out and about; placing arms around each other’s shoulders leaning into each other whilst chatting with others; huddling under an umbrella in the rain; holding on to one or other of his calves or stroking them whilst sitting at his feet; tickling one another; playing rough & tumble; hugging one another (I am now a hugger, but my younger self generally did not like such close physical contact). It was the most physical, by which I mean tactile, affinity I had experienced up to that point. Middle-class families in the seventies and eighties did not really do the touchy-feely shift that came with the more nurturing nineties. There was no kissing on my part as I considered it an expression of feeling love and I was not intellectually certain that what I felt was love. AF would occasionally give me a chaste peck on the cheek. Remember this was before the continental vogue for cheek-kissing spread (resurgently) to England!

It was a crush; in modern parlance, a bromance.

So back to thirty years ago. For my birthday he presented me with a box of chocs and a greetings-card. We chatted for ages in his car. For the life of me I cannot recall what we discussed; though I have attempted to plumb the depths of my mind for a clue as to what was about to occur. Within a month AF completely stopped talking to me and refused point blank to elucidate his reasons therefor. Within three months we had ceased altogether from seeing each other. I was emotionally devastated. Some three years later I received a short, formal note advising that he wanted nothing further to do with myself: this after a wordless meeting on a ‘bus. And that was that. Eventually he emigrated.

For years I had seldom thought of AF, but when I started to use social media I, like many others, looked for lots of folk from various stages in my past. I discovered AF is on Facebook as he was listed as a friend of a mutual school chum. I sent AF a brief message to see if he would like to be Facebook friends, but that no umbrage would be taken if he did not. Answer came there none. And no exception was taken. I was not in the least upset - or so I thought.

Occasionally I think of him, usually on or around his birthday which co-incidently is the same as for two other friends of mine.

In 2010 I woke up sweating from a discombobulating vivid dream. As is my wont, I turned on the laptop to record some notes and ended up scribing the following poem (in part due to medication I was taking at the time!):


walking out
waiting outside
for us
for me
for you
who knows
what goes thro’ your mind
I see you stare
and my heart trips
then rips again
were you waiting or
was it just co-incidence
why come back
what for
after all these years
and my heart bleeds again
stabbed by that youthful love
I feel you close
scent of lost innocence
once forgotten
fresh out of the unstoppered vial
the one with your name on
my breathing quickens
shallowed inhalation
my chest constricts
recalling your memory
hallowed sentiment
impromptu assignation
I take you in
you’ve put on weight
skin’s less wan
lentiginous still
tho’ submerged in tan
I hear your voice
and melt inside
like that foolish youth
naïf child-man
no more blotches of eczema
I smell your creamy
spicy skin
how you let me in
your touch
calloused palms
warm, pliant flesh
errant life-line
firm grip
even when you left
why have you come
your wife and kids at home
my partner next to me
one for old-time’s sake
or fresh fantasy
you’re a moment
embroiled in time
still torturing me
spectre of a painful past
an unburst boil
summer’s here
I thirst for release
but what do I know
can I divine your intent
lost in the hedgerow
bending behind shushing grain
the susurrus’ sirenic strain
stroking a wheaten tress
in unspoiled soil
hopelessly content
on the bed
lie down next to me
you said
caressing my hip
stealing away
in the vintage banger
we drive fast
past you
you silently stare
surrounded by
abounding fecundity
heart-rate pounding
you’re just reverie
dulled glass
I cry
your reality
wake up
bugger me
only in dreams
to see

Whilst I rarely consciously think of AF, he obviously is still inhabiting the dark recesses in the underworld of my sub-conscious!

Europeans over several centuries have often commented on British, and particularly English, boys' and young men’s romantic affinities with one another. Perhaps friends or family had made some snide remark to AF. Perhaps he had become self-aware and/or self-conscious of a relationship that could have gone nowhere. Perhaps he had become bored of it. Perhaps I had upset him unwittingly. At first I attempted to work out what if anything I had done wrong. Maybe though, the bond that had made us close for a while had just faded. The friendship had simply completed its course.

[Image description: the author with his current best (male) friend in a side-on embrace.]

On those rare occasions (roughly one per decade) when I have terminated a friendship, I have given an explanation (this is the lesson I learned from my friendship with AF): unwillingness to be open where repeated discussion got us nowhere; breach of trust after breaking promises made to me; sexual infidelity amongst my group of friends; inability to come out of the closet for himself let alone me; lack of shared values. I have never taken the decison lightly and invariably have attempted to sort out matters to mutual satisfaction in the first instance. However, for the most part, I consider myself loyal to my friends and love each of them in a Platonic sense and hold them in great affection.

I find it comforting to think of past friendships (with men or women) as being complete. Not everything must endure for ever. Besides, if some relationships had not ceased, I should never have made new pals and experienced so many subsequent pleasures. Anaïs Nin* said something along the lines of each new friend brings out a different facet of our self. My aim every year is to make at least one new friend. Thankfully, I seem to have left crushes in my past. Note should be taken, however, that the word ‘friend’ comes from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to love’. Irony perhaps!

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."