Tuesday, 11 September 2018

I Keep Feeling

[TRIGGER WARNING: this post deals with child-abuse and references suicide and blood!]

I have hinted at my childhood issues in some past postings.

Of late I have been much affected and effected by the abuse I suffered at the hands of both parents, not only in childhood, but through my adolescence, my young adulthood and to a lesser extent into my mid-adulthood. Eventually, in my mid-thirties, my psychiatrist, my psychologist and my G.P. (family doctor) strongly advised me to completely separate myself from them. I followed their advice and did so. Since then they have divorced and moved to different places, but I do not know exactly their whereabouts - and I want to keep it that way.

Over the years various good friends have suggested I sue my parents or lodge complaints with the police. Unfortunately, such proceedings would mean I should have to relive the horrors over and over again to the police, to lawyers and before the Courts. That, for me, is too large a price to pay for Justice. I prefer to direct my energies and efforts into healing as best I can and living my life the way I want to live it.

I know from my paternal Grandmother that my paternal Grandfather was brutal in his treatment of my Father. I know from my Aunts that my maternal Grandfather was abusive towards my Mother & her siblings. This may explain the abuse my parents meted out: it does NOT justify nor vindicate their behaviours one iota.

Several times prior to the split from my abusers, I attempted suicide; but since then I have not even contemplated same - other than for end-of-life and living-will purposes. I have become, at least partially, the happy and confident chap I should have been all along.

I am publishing the poem below and this brief preamble, not to garner sympathy, but rather with the aspiration that someone may find it useful to know that life does get better, that there is always Hope.


after so many years
       of mental justification
       of emotional turmoil
       of spiritual malaise
       of medication
              I stopped taking them
       at fifty-three
expecting liberation
scary initially

       I am still scared
so much anxiety
too many feels
but good
       has the upper-hand
              I am certain
I feel music again
my bodily pleasures
re-awakened creativity
slumbering sexuality
though no princely kiss yet
I feel me again
I keep smiling

I keep crying
I keep feeling
       I am still scarred
I keep sensing
       that putrescent
       veining my soul
my heart turned
       to cold
I keep smelling
       your odious stench
       polluting all memory
I used to feel nothing
       for you
              who made no effort
                     to atone
but you keep popping up
an unsolicited smear
never sufficient
       bruises nor blood
never enough torment
abused childhood
abused adolescence
abused adulthood
equilibrium tired
hope expired
       turned to a putative hate
       I just want the thoughts
              of you
              of your actions
              your nefandous deeds
                     to go away
                     to stay at bay
I keep feeling
longing for Fate
       to resolve
              your evil
for it has cleaved
       my soul
       my psyche
no salve
no surgery
       can heal
              the scars of cruelty

but I soldier on
       like a good boy
and I keep feeling
       never joy
       but contentment
       in your absence
              I have grown
                     in confidence
                     in maturity
                     in sagacity
I feel…
       I keep feeling
                     of Love
                     of Life
but still
       as ever
              that small boy
I cannot stop
I just have to
       keep feeling
              the pain
desperate to attain

I keep feeling

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Google News versus Apple News

My ten-year-old laptop died some eight weeks ago. I replaced my Macbook with an Apple tablet. (I hopefully will review the product at a later date - but I am exasperated at how bad so many apps are! Thankfully one can still use sites via a browser.)

Over nigh on a decade, due to the politicisation and propaganda out-put of the once-highly-trusted BBC, I have had to find alternative sources of news (I am non-partisan: examples can be found elsewhere on this blog of some of Auntie Beeb’s failings). For myself these other sources have included facebook, twitter, UK newspaper sites, foreign newspaper sites (the only way to find out about some news items on occasion due to blanket silence in the UK), blogs, and specific websites (such as Reuters and medical ones). However, I was never privy to Google News nor Apple News until the purchase of the tablet: the latter was already downloaded and so I sourced the former.

After two months of usage I cannot say I am impressed with either app. Neither gives access to foreign-language media, and often no access to their English-language versions. If it is not in English, you have had it. This surprises me, for as I understand around half of US Americans speak Spanish. I can read the news in Spanish, German and French without too much difficulty, and to some extent Dutch and Italian news where I have sufficient context. I already keep track of some European media, such as Wiener Zeitung from Vienna, Austria and El País from Spain. Even trying to opt in to publications & websites proved impossible (an explanation follows later). It had been my hope and expectation that I might be able to use either or both Google News and Apple News as a central hub for the news stories in which I am particularly interested. This has transpired to be impossible.

Both news sites give one the option to select topics of interest, but neither gives you the ready ability to opt out of subjects at the inset. Apple News is the better here, for at least one can opt out of subject matters if &/or when such appears in one’s personalised news-feed. For example I was able to opt out of American Football fairly early on. Google News however, fails to let one opt out of football/soccer news and, despite clicking every time such has appeared in my feed on the “show fewer news items like this”, it is still putting soccer in my top five news items each & every day. I have read criticisms elsewhere about this issue, so Google are more than aware of it, but for some reason do not wish to alter their algorithms or prefer to annoy users out of intransigence or pertinacity. Perhaps interestingly, it appears I have had more success in opting out of so-called celebrity news or, alternatively, there has been a dearth of such stories.

When one obtains a weekend newspaper, the first thing one does is separate the different sections. At this point the sports news goes straight into my recycling bin. In a similar fashion, one ought to be able to opt in and out of various news sections prior to reading either news service. This is a personalisation service that then avoids time-wastage and irritation. I personally, as just one example, would want to opt out of royalty news but opt in to constitutional affairs and UK politics, so mention of the royal family would only appear in my news-feed if it was in connection with one of these other related areas. The UK newspapers The Independent and The i already act likewise in their actual reporting.

Both services permit one to choose the media from which one would like to receive news, but in both cases the media sources are extremely limited. As stated above, foreign-language and indeed the European English-language versions of such sources are excluded. Both sites exclude left-wing (European political terminology not US definition here and henceforth) media, although Apple News does share stories from the left-of-centre The Spectator. Indeed, the vast majority of sources appear to be centre-right. This automatically restricts the perspectives one receives in the news-feed. Whilst much but by no means all of my personal politics is left-of-centre, I still wish to know what others are thinking and suggesting. This assists in challenging one’s own beliefs and thoughts and either strengthens them or causes one to alter one’s opinions. This I believe is the nub of liberalism. (For US readers, in Europe this means open-mindedness and a willingness to listen and learn, and the term should not be confused with Liberalism - with a capital - as this latter is a political/philosophical/economic stand-point.)

It should also be pointed out that neither site gives access to news from medical websites. Google News does not permit one to opt for feeds on specific conditions, Apple News on the contrary does do so. However, in all the instances I have seen, and I covered a variety of conditions, news is at best high-level and at worst uninformative and in some cases merely an excuse to advertise a specific product or service without overtly stating that it is some kind of product-placement. My advice is to stick with the sources one already follows for up-to-date information on research, treatments and possible medications for illnesses & specific impairments.

Similarly to the lack of medical website access, there is no entry to blogs, no matter how big or influential.

Whilst Apple News does permit one to opt for news about certain subjects, it is only from a pre-determined list. I was surprised that even then, there were zero items listed under some of these topics. It certainly is not due to there being no news on such matters, simply a failing by Apple to seek out &/or provide such news. I find this deeply disappointing and slightly troubling. It certainly has reduced my trust in brand Apple.

Both news sites only give abbreviated headlines, and in the vast majority of instances this renders them meaningless and thus useless in aiding one identify whether a story will or will not be of interest to the reader. One either has to take a chance that an article will actually be of interest or just decide to move on. This situation is absurd from apps which are supposed to be guiding one to the news one wants!

In the UK approximately 1:5 individuals have some kind of impairment or disability. In the USA this figure stands at 1:4. Thus we are discussing vast numbers of people. As an advocate - and previously an activist - for disability rights issues, I am fairly aware of the situations disabled folk find themselves in both in the UK and the USA, as well as many other places around the Globe. Additionally, I keep abreast of current happenings and issues. I can honestly state that both news sources totally fail to convey the reality of disability in our respective countries. For example under the topic “Disability and Poverty” there is only one item from nearly a year ago.

Just a few screenshots of the many I have taken to back up my assertions.

So, perhaps you may be interested in my final evaluation: my advice is to ignore both of them and continue to obtain news from wherever one already does so; neither Apple News nor Google News is likely to add to the sum of one’s knowledge nor expand one’s horizons. Given that both are huge international businesses, these pathetic offerings shame them, in my opinion of course. However, you do not have to take my word: please do try them. I should love to hear your experiences and view-points. For example, the reader is at liberty to use the comments section below or email me privately if you should so prefer.

Happy news-gathering!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018



Lying abed
hour after hour
Quotidian longueur
Year follows year
A prisoner
trapped in the bed
hidden by the blind
out of sight
I want to be out there
living Life
not feeling ennui
or intermittent despair

Twenty birthdays past
when I was free
to simply be
and I danced then
cutting through
floating on
the air
I lived fully
in my body
intense Love
my soul

This body keeps me here now
the flesh that struggles to struggle
no longer able to snuggle
in a lover’s embrace
nor for that matter
in a friend’s hug
This same body that’s killing me
but oh
 so painfully
Weary spirituality
Hope fades
colour drains
into multiple grey-shades
Insufficient energy
to risk mourning
promises of love
No sensuality
No plans
No Future
No happy-ever-after
Readying pain by pain
for an unsolicited here-after
Longing for much more
to be free
of anomie
of constant yearning
of constant envy
to be pain-free again
to awaken a too long-dormant heart
to experience intimacy
to sleep normally
to once again
read a novel cover to cover
entertain friends to a multi-course dinner
play adult games in bed
to be just the older
perhaps wiser

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

It’s Severe M.E. Day. I am a pwME, that is a person with Mylagic Encephalomyelitis and I suffer from the severe form of M.E. My cognitive abilities are not up to writing a blog-post this year. Instead, I give you “Autumn Leaves”, some 90’s chill-out music by Coldcut. The lyrics cited & sampled are:

“But I miss you most of all,

my darling,

when Autumn leaves start to fall.”

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Does the language we use include or exclude?

Anyone who follows me on my social media (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn & Twitter) will probably have noticed that I am a reader of Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT)'s blog and sometimes repost or refer to their articles. The perspectives are those of four UK churches who work together ecumenically: the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. During my lifetime I have regularly attended churches of all bar the Scottish member. I was a sunday-school teacher for two of them. Nowadays I feel attached to the Society of Friends, the Quakers. The commonality is our pursuit of social justice.

I subscribe to JPIT's email newsletter and today received:
The author writes that she and the other quarter of a million or so demonstrators are angry:

"Trump represents a toxic cocktail of misogyny, racism, xenophobia and lies."

But note what's missing from this statement: inter alia homophobia, classism and disablism (ableism). There is no attempt to be all-inclusive. The statement by including only certain examples with no caveat, excludes other areas of hostility and discrimination. One way the sentence could be rewritten to be more inclusivist is as follows:

Trump represents a toxic cocktail of hate and lies. Amongst other things, he is a misogynist, racist and xenophobe.

The blog-post continues with a laudable assertion:

"We believe that everyone is made in the image of God and is entitled to dignity and respect and therefore, that discrimination is an assault on the image of God."
By using the term "everyone", this is an all-inclusive statement. However it is then immediately qualified by the very next sentence.
"We believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of God regardless of race, gender or nationality and all are welcome to be part of the body of Christ."

The "everyone" in this sentence has been limited. Again note what's missing: inter alia, sexuality, creed, class, age and disability.

The United Nations (UN), in article two of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
The UN by using the phrases "without distinction of any kind", "such as" and "or other status" ensures that all are included and none are excluded from its definition of "Everyone".

Not only does what we say convey meaning, but what we do not say also is open to interpretation, to inference. If we use exclusivist language, then some will feel or believe themselves to be excluded. Others will take our views as exclusivist of certain groupings.

If one uses the search-box on the JPIT's site, one will find no results for "homophobia", "homosexuality", "homosexual" nor "sexual orientation". There is only one mention of "gay" in a fleeting reference to the mass-murders in Orlando in 2016. By contrast the terms "disabled" and "disability" (but not "disablism") connect to several articles. JPIT raises many important questions and encourages its readers to take action. Are the folk behind the site and its contributors deliberately excluding some groups? I hope not. I suspect that the likelihood is that the matter of being inclusive just had not occurred.

None of us, including myself, are perfect: we all exclude others, either wittingly or unwittingly. Nonetheless, I encourage us all to try to be more inclusivist in the language we use.