#UKCBCShorts Who’s Angela?

Posted on 30th June 2019 in #amwriting/ advice/ Crime Fiction/ divorce/ domestic violence/ love/ Womens' Refuge
*SUMMER SHORTS* #ukcbcshorts
I’ve loved reading the ‘summer shorts’ on the UK Crime Book Club over on Facebook and although I am by no means a writer (but an ardent reviewer!), I have had a go and here is mine. Please be kind!
 
Who’s Angela?
It was too hot in the waiting room and she fidgeted, noting the trickle of a bead of sweat as it made its way down her back. Her eyes were drawn to the poster opposite, to the juxtaposition of soft pastel colouring against the stark image of a woman cowering below a man aggressively shouting in her face. Despite the heat, she was reluctant to remove her cardigan and risk showing the tiny inky dark bruise on her wrist, and so suffered the humid air. The bruise had been an accident but she didn’t need the stress of trying to explain.
Prescription in hand she waited in line at the Pharmacy, a small smile twitched the corner of her mouth as she remembered the ‘Ask for Angela’ slogans and wondered if it would work the same way at pharmacy counter. In all honesty she doubted whether it would even work in a bar, surely the majority of the time some poor girl would pluck up the courage to ‘ask for Angela’ only to be met with ‘What?’, ‘Who?’ or ‘She’s not on tonight’ rather than the promised waiting arms of a sisterly angel who would swoop you away from potential trouble.
Back at home she pushed the box of sleeping tablets to the very bottom of the tea towel drawer before heading into work; it wouldn’t do for those to be discovered. Medication wasn’t the answer and she knew it but sometimes a good night’s sleep was needed rather than lying awake all night pretending to sleep and worrying about what he was up to.
Work was getting awkward. The continual texting and calling, the photos, the emails, keeping on top of it all actually sometimes got in the way of what she was paid to do but it was a necessity and pretty much the only way to keep things from getting out of hand.
Arriving home that evening she automatically searched for Suki’s friendly face at the window or on the drive before remembering, with a sad heart, that the little cat was no longer there. Her one friend throughout the turmoil had been Suki with her ‘naughty tortie’ face and an attitude to match but lessons had to be learnt and the loss of little Suki sure had hammered that message home. After making a cup of tea she sat gently on the bench in the garden and noted the mix of wildflowers and grasses that had begun to sprout on the small cat sized mound of earth in the corner. He had dug the tiny grave in the pouring rain before tossing her broken body inside and it was positioned so that you could see it from every aspect of the garden meaning even a simple chore such as pegging out the washing soon became a reminder that it was best to behave.
Lost in her thoughts, she jumped when she heard his car tyres crunch onto the gravel as he parked meticulously on the drive. Tossing her now cold tea to one side she leapt into action and greeted him in the hallway. Like seemingly every night these days it wasn’t long before the questions and accusations began. Every detail of the day had to be picked over from the journey to and from work, to who had initiated each conversation in the workplace and why. Work emails had to be checked along with calls and texts. What was worse was that this didn’t happen every day, sometimes these checks didn’t take place for a couple of weeks making it so much harder to remember all of the details and the (always) innocent explanations for any perceived over friendly communications.
Dinner was made and eaten in stony silence, there had been another text message from Chris which had a kiss at the end of it and no amount of pleading and explaining had been able to make it ok. Chris was just one of those people who put a kiss on everything to everyone, it meant absolutely nothing but somehow it now seemed sordid. After just a few mouthfuls of macaroni cheese she ended up scraping hers into the bin, her appetite ruined by the adrenaline surge yet again. Mournfully her thoughts returned to Suki and how she always seemed to know just when to be extra cute or loving – she hated him most for what had happened to that cat.
Bedtime always seemed to be a safe time, not much could go wrong – apart from the odd unexpected bruise (is that a love bite?) or lack of passion – but mainly bedtime was ok. To be sure though, she made them both hot chocolate and for once added sleeping pills to both of their drinks waiting patiently until the white powder fully dissolved before carrying them carefully up the stairs peacefully anticipating welcome oblivion.
The following day began badly. They overslept. He was clearly going to be late for his annual appraisal meeting and the agitation bounced off him in waves as he rushed to get ready. Well tough, she wasn’t helping him, although she was late too she found the woolly headedness to be almost pleasant and couldn’t help but smile as he grew increasingly flustered before heading out of the door with his face set in resignation of the fate that awaited him at work.
That day texts went unanswered, calls were sent to voicemail and emails were deleted. A cold hard rage boiled inside and solidified into something deeply unpleasant. Memories of Suki flickered and blurred as text upon text pinged into cyberspace. The evening was not going to be good. Had the worm turned? She didn’t want another failed relationship, especially as she’d been in an abusive relationship before and it never took look before people started talking about ‘common denominators’ – either way, things couldn’t carry on as they were.
‘999 call from a neighbour Sarge, show us as attending?’ PCs Brown and Lowe regretfully left their sandwiches but had at least managed to hang on to their take out cups as they ran back to their car and made their way towards the house, siren blaring.
‘Never any bloody parking round here.’ Brown said as he tucked the squad car artfully in between two enormous 4x4s. ‘We’ve been here before haven’t we?’
‘Yep.’ Said Lowe, with quiet resignation ‘neighbour quite often calls us out but it’s always a case of ‘no officer, just a lovers quarrel’ when we knock on the door.’
‘Sounds a bit worse this time though, dispatch said the caller sounded proper terrified.’
Silence descended as they approached the house, training kicked in instinctively and Lowe reported back that they had arrived while Brown knocked on the stylish grey front door; which he soon found to be unlocked. The scene inside the immaculately painted hallway was breathtaking, there was blood everywhere, literally everywhere noted Brown as he jump back before a drip could land on him from the Swarovski light fitting.
There was a wide stripe of blood along the highly polished flooring, which they followed through to the open plan kitchen where the couple both sat slumped on the floor.
‘Jesus’ muttered Brown as he took in the fading bruises layered among the new bruises, pale scars littering the torso whether from burns or previous stab wounds wasn’t clear but it was evident that pain had been inflicted frequently. The dark blackness of the gaping knife wounds left no doubt as to the source of the rich tang of the blood which filled the air. ‘There’s no pulse’ he shouted back to Lowe who had already requested two ambulances to attend the scene and nodded sombrely; neither of them had expected a pulse.
From the other side of the room she coughed and both Brown and Lowe turned towards her in slow motion incredulous that anyone had survived this bloodbath. Looking at her anew, Lowe’s eyes widened and she turned towards her partner seeking confirmation that they were both seeing the same thing.
The smallest nod of agreement from Brown was enough and Lowe leapt into action bfore the diminutive figure before them could wreak any further havoc. ‘You have the right to remain silent…’
It seemed the neighbours had been right all along ‘She’s going to kill him one of these days if you don’t stop her!’ They’d said on every single call.
© Lisa Hall 2019
Author’s note: if you have any concerns regarding your relationship, or the relationship of a friend or loved one, please seek advice and remember it doesn’t only happen to women. More information regarding the new laws surrounding psychological abuse and coercive control can be found here: http://coffeecurls.co.uk/advice/new-domestic-abuse-law/

New Domestic Abuse Law

Posted on 27th June 2019 in advice/ bullying/ child abuse/ divorce/ domestic violence/ family

I’m putting together an entry for ‘Summer Shorts’ which has a domestic violence theme (I’ll share that too once finished), as such I have found myself researching a few things and came across an article regarding a change in the law which means any psychological abuse is also now illegal – a new crime of coercive control, introduced in December 2015, widened the net to cover a host of other types of domestic abuse.

Did you know your partner can no longer legally do the following things:

1. Share sexually explicit images of you.

2. Restrict your access to money.

3. Continually put you down.

4. Stop you seeing friends and family.

5. Scare you.

6. Threaten to reveal private things about you.

7. Use tracking software on your phone.

8. Be extremely jealous.

9. Make you obey their rules.

10. Control what your wear.

11. Force you to do things you don’t want to do.

More details are included in the following article https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/domestic-abuse-partner-cant-do-14543776 

If you have any worries about your relationship, please seek advice https://www.refuge.org.uk/ 

Reap what you sow

Mental Health: Don’t bother telling me your door is always open

Posted on 6th May 2017 in #guestpost/ charity/ depression/ Mental Health

A lovely lady I know online recently posted the words below on Facebook and has kindly given me permission to share them.

She makes such a valid point, so incredibly well, I’ve always found the ‘type the colour of your underwear on your status for breast cancer awareness/share this heart for breast cancer’ posts quite infuriating. Surely sharing signs to look out for or advice for supporting a friend/loved one would be much more use.

The same applies to the recent flurry of posts stating that your door is always open and people can just pick up the phone – anyone who has ever suffered would know that is the very last thing you would be able/willing to do.

Anyway, Abi puts it beautifully:

“Do you know the problem with all this talk about mental health? I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want a hug. I don’t want cup of tea and someone to tell me it will all get better. What I want is to hide under the duvet and cry until I have no more tears. If you think the answer is to post that you are always listening it won’t help. I know you mean well but I’d never send you a Facebook message to say I’m losing my grip and I’m good at faking it.

To the person who stepped in front of a train, took an overdose, slit their wrists, hung themselves, all I want to say is I understand and I’m sorry we lost you. Sometimes what people need most is space and understanding, a cave we can run away to occasionally and not be questioned.

So yes let’s talk about mental health but don’t ever expect someone suffering from severe depression to come to you when they need you. I don’t have the answer, the only suggestion I have is that we stop communicating through technology and start using our eyes. When that friend makes excuses and can’t come out, ask them if they would like you to come over. When someone you love shouts and pushes you away, give them space, but do ask what’s wrong and if you can help. When you pass a stranger on the street, smile and say hello, you may be the only person they speak to all day and it may break their thoughts and help them smile.

Sometimes it’s the silence that gives us away. I won’t ever tell you what goes through my mind but you can help distract me and that goes a long way. I’m just trying to stay in control so don’t push me. Just reach out and touch someone the edge is closer than you think.

Speaking as someone who has lost 2 dads to suicide and having attempted myself I can tell you that it’s release that we need. To stop the nightmares, the paranoia and the overwhelming fear of failure. It really doesn’t matter how real those things are. They are in our mind. So don’t tell me it will get better or that I’m loved, I know that but when?

Do you know my biggest fear? That my girls think it’s an acceptable choice. That one day they may contemplate the same. I really don’t think I could survive that so I will always watch and love them.

PS if you post that you are stuck in traffic or the train is delayed because some “idiot” has decided to end their life, I will unfriend you. They didn’t get there lightly and they won’t bother you again. You will get home and your life will go on so shut the f*ck up. They will be gone forever and the only thing that will follow is devastation but don’t worry that won’t affect you just their family and friends.

Thank you all for all of your support.”

 

One last thing from me. Did you know you can email the Samaritans? It IS hard to pick up the phone sometimes, but even the act of writing your fears, worries, feelings, in an email can help to lift the burden. The Samaritans will email you back, doesn’t matter if your worry is trivial – if it is important to you, it is important to them.

Contact Samaritans

Psychosis – Tony Marturano – Reader’s Group

Posted on 27th February 2017 in #bookreview/ advice/ book review/ books

PsychosisI was truly honoured this week to be a part of a reader’s feedback group for author, Tony Marturano.

I was there to give feedback on the first draft of his new novel ‘Psychosis’ and it was a fabulous experience.

It was also a pretty nerve-wracking, daunting experience too as I have never met Tony before so I had no idea what sort of person he was, or even if this whole thing was a scam and I would end up chopped into a thousand tiny pieces and never seen again…

My fears were, fortunately, unfounded. I was welcomed into Tony’s home and made to feel incredibly welcome. There were 3 of us ‘newbies’, 2 in person and 1 by skype plus 4 more seasoned members of the feedback group.

It was a fascinating experience and I feel incredibly fortunate to have taken part. The other people in the group were all lovely and time flew by as we all offered our thoughts (while being plied with coffee and pastries). Tony ran the process like a well oiled machine and took compliments and criticisms all with the same gentle humour and easy manner. This made it very easy to be completely honest and I think it was brave of him to open himself up to opinions in this way.

The book itself (another thing I was dreading – what if it was awful?!) was really good. I obviously can’t give any spoilers (and will review it on my book review site in due course) but it is a really strong storyline and Tony’s characterisation and descriptive writing are simply superb.

I hope to see these lovely people again and I have already downloaded some of Tony’s other books to read!

Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

You Should Visit Wood Green #CharityTuesday

Posted on 27th September 2016 in #charitytuesday/ animal rescue/ animals/ cat/ cat rescue/ poke/ Pokemon/ Pokemon Go

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 15.31.05Being as I am a *keen animal lover (*nutty, passionate, talks to animals etc etc), it should come as no surprise to you to learn that I tend to get my pets from rescue centres.

What I want to share with you today is that you shouldn’t just go to your local rescue centre when you are searching for a replacement for Tiddles, rather you should go there as an enjoyable day out and an opportunity to teach children about the amount of care pets need.

20160917_190417My local rescue centre, Wood Green, has really embraced the idea of engaging with visitors and welcomes people onto its wonderful grounds for many reasons.What can you expect to find? In addition to a wide variety of animals hoping to be rehomed (dogs, cats, ferrets, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens, alpacas, mice, gerbils, rats, reptiles etc) you will find a well stocked shop, a friendly cafe with oodles of gluten free items, toilets, free car parking, a memorial garden, beautiful grounds to walk in and even a wedding area!

They also hold regular events in their arena – dog shows, craft fairs etc. Coming up soon they have a sponsored fire walk and they recently held two very successful #PokemonGo evenings, making full use of their 5 pokestops, gym and abundance of Pokemon (including Charmander, Blastoise, Polliwag and Dratini to name but a few).

IMG_20160924_154307So if you fancy somewhere different to take your children, are looking for elusive Pokemon or just somewhere beautiful to enjoy a cup of tea – head over to Wood Green animal shelter.

As for my pets, well I currently have Max and Chopper who both came from Wood Green.

You can read more about Max’s adventures here.
20160924_151846 20160924_151855

How To: Change Your Pokemon Go Username

Posted on 31st August 2016 in Games/ Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go MenuYes, you really can change your Pokemon Go username but be warned, you can only change it ONCE so choose very carefully!

It’s dead simple. First you hit the menu button (the red/white ball at the bottom of the screen.)

Then you click on the settings gear (the flower/wheel at the top right of the screen.)

From there you just click to change your name :)

Think carefully, remember, you can only change it ONCE. Try not to include your real name.

Play safe and have fun!

Pokemon Go Settings

 

Can A Peg Cure Your #Migraine?

Posted on 9th June 2016 in health

PegYes, you read that right – a peg. A humble, cheap, readily available peg!

A colleague of mine recently told me of a time when she had to attend an important engagement but awoke with a horrendous migraine with slurred speech and couldn’t even sit up to take her medication. Out of desperation she asked her husband to google ‘magic’ cures and he discovered a claim that placing a peg on your ear lobe will reduce a migraine.

Sure enough, he placed the peg on her ear and within 10 minutes she was able to take her medication and have a shower. She says the migraine hadn’t gone but it had subsided sufficiently to allow her to function. She was able to attend her engagement and attributes this entirely to the peg, which, incidentally, she kept on for the whole day skillfully hidden under her hair!

Another colleague of mine claims that a daith piercing has cured her migraines completely. Prior to having the piercing done she was experiencing daily migraines and the Dr had referred her for a brain scan but since having it done she says that she hasn’t even had a headache, let alone a migraine.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 20.38.18

It’s so simple that it is surely worth trying – can a peg cure your #migraine?

CMS / CSA – Update

Posted on 31st May 2016 in boys/ children/ CSA/ divorce/ ex-husband/ parenting

In February of this year, my case with the CSA was passed on to the new CMS (Child Maintenance Service). This was purported to be the new and improved version of the CSA…

Having still not heard from them, or received any payments, I rang them today for an update. Unsurprisingly, the update is that nothing has happened. You may recall that in March they advised me I would begin receiving payments from the 1 April and that as expected the 1 April came and went without any payment arriving, as did the 1 May and I would imagine the 1 June will be equally devoid of payment.

So today I have phoned them to query what is happening and why they haven’t responded to the two letters I have sent them. The answer is that they sent payment details to my ex and that he hasn’t responded. As to why they’ve ignored my letters, well they ignored that question.

As a result of my phone call the case will now be referred to the direct collections team who will, in their own sweet time, write to my ex again and give him 14 days to respond. They will then write to him again and warn him that if he doesn’t respond with 14 days of this letter that he will be referred to the deduction of earning team.

I can only guess what happens at that point… I would place my bets on it being either a) nothing or b) they write to him and give him 14 days to respond.

So, since transferring to the CMS in February they have established that my ex IS in employment and that he SHOULD be paying but they’ve done nothing to make that happen.

Also, with the CSA a substantial amount of arrears had accrued. When the case was transferred to the CMS I was asked if I wanted the arrears wiped off or if I wanted them transferred to the CMS (yes, I really was asked that question), needless to say I asked for them to be transferred. However, the CMS have no record of the arrears. Apparently they are now a separate issue and will be transferred at some point in the future at which point the CMS will write to my ex and ask him to pay…

Consequently, my advice to anyone who is being transferred to the Child Maintenance Service is to keep on top  of them, set yourself diary reminders to chase them up as they do absolutely nothing without continual prompting.

I am now off to write to the CSA to ask them where the arrears are and why they haven’t been transferred to the CMS!

 

Week 1 with #FitBit

Posted on 6th April 2016 in health

FitBit weekly stats

I was a little dubious about FitBit and whether it was just a fad for which the novelty would soon wear off. However, I bought my partner one in February and he is still obsessed with it, as is a colleague of mine, so I’ve been ever so sheep like and followed suit!

I now have a FitBit Charge HR and have quickly become disturbingly reliant on knowing what my heart rate is Week one statsand how many flights of stairs I’ve done – did you know that if you carry something upstairs then it doesn’t get recorded. (Yes, this has resulted in me then running back down the stairs empty handed so that I can run up them again and get it added to my daily tally…)

FitBit very kindly sends you a weekly roundup of your stats and some of mine for this week are shown on the right.

I have found FitBit to have a sense of humour as every day when I take it off of charge (I charge it while I am in the shower so as not to miss too many valuable steps!) it displays a little message on the screen! So far I have had:

Step Geek

Bon Jour

Hi There

Climb On

Hold Me

Rock On

Also, and it’s worth pointing out here that I haven’t been actively dieting, I have lost 3lb this week which can only be from all the additional steps. I am genuinely impressed to note that I’ve done nearly 50,000 steps and I know that it would probably be half that amount if it weren’t for the #FitBit making me want to hit my daily goals.

 

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