Saturday, 16 September 2023

Thought Picnic: Drawing strength over the memories

Bringing strength to bear

Sometimes, I start at my keyboard about to write a blog and I end up writing something different. When writing, I have the impression the intended blog would be woven into what I am writing and then it becomes clear that I need to separate issues, the connection is in my head rather than in what I am writing.

My eyes have been welling for the past hour at the keenness of memories I should long have forgotten but have a recurrence with the vividity of clarity and import, there is much that is in churn that I need the spiritual to address the emotional, the mental, and the physical. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14 (KJV)

The haunting of the mind

What was silent in the father speaks in the son; and I often found in the son the unveiled secret of the father.” Nietzsche

This saying that I heard on Criminal Minds brings to the fore the subject of memory, the things from childhood and adolescence that anyone else involved might well have forgotten and I would have been expected not to remember. Not only the father, but also the mother, or maybe more the relationship between parent and child. The past comes in a ghoulish likeness to inflict and torment, you steady yourself with some resolve, even as others might have reached for a stiff drink.

Yet, we live with our memories, even the ones we want to get rid of and forget totally. Along with some comes the smell of the atmosphere that represents the recall, the hurt, the way you felt, there is a hurling up, the burdens we bear of the narratives that become our stories in the saying appearing at the end.

There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with or without repentance.” Gilbert Parker

From left to right in the north and south

Gerstmann syndrome occasionally

As I sit here, I remember from this afternoon the flu jab that I was reminded to come for from my GP surgery when I somewhat forgot I had booked a 9:36 AM appointment. I guess everyone had gone through and they had until 1:20 PM to do a sweep, the text message to my phone came in at 11:35 AM, polite and entreating, I got dressed, donned a facemask, and made my way to the surgery.

After the basic formalities, I was ushered into a treatment room where after a few questions, I was asked whether I was left or right-handed, though I am right-handed, I sometimes have a confusion of my left from my right. However, today I consciously offered my left arm, a good bit of muscle to impale with a hypodermic needle and with a little twitch in reaction, the dose was delivered and I was ready to leave.

Between the north and south

I had a question about travelling to the southern hemisphere in their wintertime considering I got a bit under the weather last year. Do I need a flu jab for the winter? I asked. There are differences in flu strains between the northern and the southern hemisphere, so, it is unlikely that getting a flu jab here can help, though in the main, it should offer some level of protection.

However, I should expect some discomfort in my arm which could last up to two days, though, now that I think of it, I was not given a leaflet for the jab I was given which I did get on receiving the vaccine the previous years. It will soon appear on the NHS app, and I can research it. I probably should take some Paracetamol with Caffeine; I might even have Paracetamol with Codeine stashed away too. Yeah! I ran the gamut of an intensive interrogation to get that when I asked for Codeine when I intended Caffeine.

NB: Gerstmann syndrome which includes left-right disorientation.

Opinion: Public safety is paramount regardless of your cuddly dog

Dogging my freedom to walk

I used to enjoy waking up early before the madding crowd got up to do my walking exercise, during which time I had two hours to myself, did about 15,000 steps and went through two public parks in Salford with the occasional encounter with people I had made an acquaintance with over time.

I stopped just over a year ago for one simple reason, the fear of dogs. Dogs that are momentarily out of control or out of earshot of their owners suddenly run at me because they are not on a leash and for whatever animal instinct they have, decide to attack me.

I had had so many encounters that I even bought an ultrasonic dog repellent device with the hope that the unpleasantness would cause the dog to run from me, but there was no guarantee it would work when you needed it to.

The law on dogs in public

Against this backdrop was the inconsiderate dog owner who would first be oblivious to the law and then project a sense of entitled freedom for their dog. The law requires that dogs in public places such as parks and footpaths should always be on a leash. It is also the responsibility of the dog owner to ensure that the public does not feel threatened by their dog. [GOV.UK: Controlling your dog in public] [BlueCross: Dog laws UK]

One morning as I was walking through the park, the dog walking with its owner bolted towards me and jumped on my leg up to my thigh, if I did not have track bottoms on, I would have had scratches on my leg. The encounter was terrifying for the simple reason, I did not know the dog. The owner however thought I had overreacted to her gentle cuddly puppy just being friendly to strangers, I did not get as much as an apology.

A few other times, I encountered the same dog and as it ran at me, I shouted to the owner to call their dog to order. I began to change the times when I walked through the park, bought the dog repellent device, and eventually concluded, that it was just too much hassle for me, the relaxation I was getting from walking was becoming a stressful and foreboding experience that every dog I saw now looked like a threat to my safety.

Your loving dog, is a public threat

Much as I appreciate the dog owner’s perspective, it selfishly does not consider that the familiarity the dog has with its owner is not automatically transferred to strangers. To turn it around, it is like a stranger jumping out of the bush to pounce on someone unawares, you do not welcome that violation and fright by patting the stranger on the head and giving them a kiss, even if that stranger comes from a family and environment where they are loved, respected, and cherished. A stranger is a stranger whenever you get familiar with the person.

The same would apply to dogs, no assumption should be made of a dog being friendly to strangers in public when they are loving and cuddly at home. That is where the debate should be. For as long as the dogs are in their homes, the public is safe, but when the dogs are brought into a public space, they should be under control and instruction, they should not be menacing, and people should generally not feel terrified of your dog.

Human rights trump animal rights

My freedom to roam and walk at the time of my choosing was trammelled because of an irresponsible dog owner with a sweet dog that was recklessly out-of-control in a public park. Sadly, this is the case in the current issue about the attacks by the American XL Bully dogs reported in the news with many injured needing hospital care and one fatality, in the space of one week.

The counter-advocacy is against the banning of dogs, but if a dog can weigh as much as an average-sized being and is not strictly under control in public places, unfortunate dog attacks can be lethal and life-changing, what is the mitigation for the dog or the dog owner?

In my case, it was not any of the dogs on the banned list, it did not make the dog any less an animal as opposed to a person I could attempt to reason with, in a confrontation. A dog will always remain an animal whether tamed or wild, and much as I subscribe to animal rights and the treatment of animals with care and consideration, they cannot in the face of the law be equal to human beings in terms of the freedom to express themselves as animals with all the instincts that entails.

Public safety remains preeminent

The core responsibility is with the owner to have good control of their dog; however, the essential point is the public should not be fearful of either the dog being out of control or irresponsible dog owners not understanding the situation of their dog being a possible menacing threat in the public. Public safety is paramount, regardless of what relationship you have with your dog in your home setting.

For that reason, I am in support of banning the American XL Bully breed and any associated breeds that could represent a threat to public safety. In addition to that, any dog owner must know the law about dogs in public spaces, they do not have the same and equal rights as persons and examples of the law must be made of dog owners who have taken the right to walk roughshod on the law that requires, they are responsible owners of animals, including dogs. [Petitions: Make XL Bully a banned dog breed in the Dangerous Dogs Act]

Blog - Rottweilers are NOT pets (December 2007)

Blog - A note on "Rottweilers are NOT pets" (May 2010)

Monday, 11 September 2023

Of things that never should have happened

Relaxing by television

How do I relax when watching television at home? Everything done by Agatha Christie, I would probably watch, Miss Marple with Joan Hickson and then Geraldine McEwen in the title role being my favourites, then any other Hercule Poirot apart from Peter Suchet is pretending, even Sir Peter Ustinov’s turn did not interest me as much.

Murder, She Wrote, I have a date with Jessica Fletcher every Saturday, and I do not care how many times I have watched repeats, the same goes for Columbo on Sundays. Recently, I have taken an interest in Criminal Minds, then the easy gentile setup of Saint Marie, the location of Death in Paradise does not come with investigative overload, I could be watching a cartoon.

However, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) is one television series that has me walking in both the shoes of the victim and urging the fully indicted course of justice, with all that it entails. I can identify with the victim and many times with their frame of reference, especially in cases of child sexual abuse and the difficult quest for anything that looks like justice.

Identifying with the victim

Then, I am invested in the process to ensure that abuse is fully punished to the extent of the law, the cases are rarely iron clad slam dunk, there is much mining of the recesses of memory along with the issues around the depravity that caused the crime being investigated.

However, earlier tonight, I watched an episode of Law & Order: SVU, the detail of which is references, but a snippet of a conversation at the closing of the episode was the type of playscript that anyone who has been a victim of abuse can relate to.

Detective Katriona 'Kat' Tamin: None of us protected her.

Captain Olivia Benson: I hear you. Why don't you punch out, okay? Take a few days off.

Detective Katriona 'Kat' Tamin: Please don't patronize me. This never should have happened to her.

Captain Olivia Benson: You're right. It never should've. [Read more at: - Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (TV Series) Season 22, Episode 5 Turn Me on Take Me Private (2021)]

The conversation above can refer to too many instances of where protection, dismissal, advocacy, and exasperation. The bottom line is, “This never should have happened.”

Never should have happened

Looking back, there are too many things that never should have happened, things that could, should, or would have been prevented as part of what pertains to being protected, especially where the victim has no agency because of the situation and the circumstances, the vulnerable from child to adult alike.

Furthermore, where an act has been perpetrated, you wonder if there are any avenues to seek a hearing and consequently some redress. Sometimes, the situation is such that there is no way to share the incident, and it becomes internalised.

Yet, the worst part is when too little is done to deal with the issue out of the fear of shame or embarrassment, a moral failing that seeks to conceal rather than do what it right and just with the hope that the passage of time will make it pale into insignificance. It seems to, but it never does, it is usually consequential.

The insidious folding of arms and need to let bygones be bygones, otherwise, just take some time off and you’ll feel a lot better, do not rock the boat, other passengers might get seasick, so, take one for the team, the team that cannot begin to understand what you went through. That team is family, relations, your community, or colleagues. To make a fuss is to break ranks and upset the apple cart.

Do not let it happen

There are many directions to go in terms of making people responsible and accountable for their abuses, but that is further down the line. The better cause should be aware enough and ready with the courage to ensure that what never should have happened, never should have happened in the first place.

Obviously, justice in terms of apology, restitution, recompense, indictment leading to conviction and commensurate punishment can help, but why should a narrative include suffering for a better story even if one who has never suffered may find their own story not as engaging or interesting.

Saturday, 9 September 2023

Thought Picnic: The convenience of what we choose to remember

Games of the memory

It is easy for others to forget or misremember things when things are remembered, they could also be remembered differently from how events occurred, where things happened, and who was involved.

Too frequently, we are blindsided by the misremembered or forgotten, though whether that is deliberate or inadvertent, one cannot say in the purity of innocence or the sleight of chicanery.

With one’s parents this can be interesting, the charges you want to lay against them, they would rather have forgotten or swear never happened, whilst the accusation they level against you they expect to be a perfect recall of memory, unfailing and playing back like film. Maybe, this is where one learns forgiveness because it feels like taking poison oneself and expecting the other person to be affected.

Feelings of the memory

The wrongly accepted canard is that the child by the passage of time and the influence of life soon forgets totally and never recalls, if ever. That is rarely the case, things are left in the recesses of memory and certain triggers lift them out of the archives of the mind to present new realisation and probably in new contexts too.

Many of these things might not appear in my blogs but have come up in conversation with others, much at the risk of cynicism that subterfuge is at play. What I do is note them down for the broader narrative of the story that the spectrum of the best to the worst is usually represented in relationships.

That way we have been wronged by those we love as much as we have been loved by those we wronged. Each has their own perspective, and no one owes the other a convincing story; most of the time, it is the words of Maya Angelou that ring true, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It works both ways, especially in the words of our kindred.

Friday, 8 September 2023

The many stations of help

I cannot help you

This had me confused as to what the role of a peer mentor was, which I thought was one of experience brought to bear by example and narrative other than prescription or instruction concerning the issues of life.

Whilst many might have a particular goal or aim for seeking out a mentor, in general, it would seem the better outcome is in shadowing and understudying with ample opportunity for engagement, discussion, explanation, or insight as to why things were better viewed differently.

Without stating it, the feedback was he got on well as an individual with the vicissitudes of life, so why was I self-indulgent and not pulling my weight? I think I have heard and felt that ‘helpful’ criticism before. Much I felt there was something that could be offered, I was ready to walk away when the option of another meeting was offered.

I acquiesced, but the said meeting was postponed by him and we agreed to a rescheduling, just as I had the unction coming out of the shower that I saw no mileage in our interactions. I am of the inkling; that it is for the best.

I think we can help

It was not easy to get to this point. After so articulately sharing some very intimate elements of myself it might seem I was on the one hand relatively well-adjusted and on the other hand seeking professional trauma intervention.

Things I had never given voice to with coherence I never preplanned and the utterance I never predetermined; came out of my mouth to make the case I could not have imagined.

I could only conclude that flesh and blood had not revealed this nor inspired me, I had every help from the Spirit to break through the hurdles that were put before me.

I am in the queue, and there is a prospect of finding the form of words that would flesh out the story I believe needs to be told for the possible purpose of benefiting others.

I want to help you

For the third time in the same week upon a referral from my consultant, I was back on the 20-minute walk to this support organisation. This time on the issues pertaining to means and resources.

Once again, concerns, situations, and circumstances were shared for analysis and played before me with the plight of the Israelites in Egypt, under the cosh of slavery and the duress of producing better bricks but with not enough straw. Not enough of it to meet the range of things that you never thought about once before.

I am walking into a place of more than enough, that is in my heart and in my mouth. It is however necessary to understand for context where you are leaving for a new place, so the significance of the journey can be fully appreciated.

Let me have this other information, he said, and I will get this other stuff for you.

Help for you

It takes quite a change in perspective to get to where you realise you need help, then comes where you go to get that help, after which you have to work through how to ask for help. Your request is then assessed to determine if you are eligible for the help, and to what extent the help can be given depending on the availability of help and helpers.

There is only so much people can do because their abilities and resources are finite, limited, and scarce. The most incredible help in any situation can only come from above, for that is where you get the strength to go through the storms of life and find the imagination to dream the impossible and bring that into your present reality.

Reluctance, tentativeness, and willingness become experiences of the responses we get and we should not be discouraged if we encounter more of the former before we get to some of the latter.

Of that, I have many testimonies and for that, I am grateful that I will yet give even better testimonies of goodness, blessings, faithfulness, and joy.

Blog - He shall preserve my soul, even forevermore

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Answering a challenge for eligibility

Looking at your vulnerable side

Having a sit down to talk and have a conversation with people for professional services is quite an interesting thing, especially where an assessment is being made of whether the professional or assessor can help you. The day before, I had met with a prospective buddy/mentor, we decided to meet again when it seemed there was no point of agreement or meeting of minds.

It was in a conversation with my consultant some weeks ago that we agreed that on her referral, I could avail myself of counselling rather than request it on my own pre-empting.

I think I have convinced myself that I am quite articulate, I have a disciplined or call it measured way of talking about myself that exudes qualities of clarity of mind, understanding of issues, elaboration of detail, and building relatable narratives.

Making sense of the complexities

Interestingly, for the first time, I linked together a whole range of life events walking backwards from situation to Genesis, a framework that had developed in the many blogs I had written but never laid out in a string of unintended and yet natural chain of occurrences.

The questions I was asked were supposed to elicit concepts and ideas upon which a decision could be made to put me in line for engagement, but it got to the point where it was first opined that I might not need the service and hence, I needed to assert by whatever means why I felt they could be of help.

An analogy for counsel provision

I had never thought of it before, it was like I was given utterance to address the challenge as I spoke. I started with every journey has a road to a destination, the destination sometimes is what is required and nothing else. However, consider if on that journey, you were driving and then you had a diversion or probably you had a tyre puncture that meant you had to stop to change the tyre.

That interruption to your journey is worth considering in terms of delaying you getting to your destination, bringing some new experience into view, what you might have run over to cause the puncture, how to avoid such punctures, like navigating another route, being conscious of the related hazards, and how to have a better journey.

The focus has moved from the destination to the experience in the journey which is part of the tapestry of life itself. Surely, all that is significant. I think that analogy helped considerably, he nodded, acknowledged how useful the illustration was and I think he was a bit more convinced that there was scope for me to access services.

In what I thought would be just an hour of conversation, over 90 minutes went into the chat that I found myself running late for my welcoming stint at the cathedral. Meanwhile, there is a waiting list and maybe soon, I would be getting a call.