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Dec. 28th, 2015

Early new year styled thoughts

I’ve been really thinking a lot about the year that’s been, and the year that’s going to come.

At the start of 2015 I was really not in a good place. I read back and I can see the depression there… at the time I didn’t feel depressed, just frustrated and overwhelmed… which is more of less the same thing I guess.

This time last year I was hoping for change and progress. And this year I made that change happen and I made that progress.

And it’s been really fucking hard work. Really hard and really difficult, but I was so desperately miserable where I was, and I was lucky enough to have professionals who could help me on my way.

This year I got treatment for PTSD; and I finally (like in November) got to see a knee specialist who finally gave me a diagnosis on my knee. These were two things that I felt were really holding me back. The problems with my knee kept a huge question mark over my immediate future, but with the diagnosis of fucked ligaments but not so fucked they need surgery, I can make a plan to deal with it. And I can just make plans in general. There’s no longer this ever shifting 6week-6month period where I’d have to deal with recovery.

This year I had to move, which was incredibly stressful, but I also got good insight into who of my local friends are reliable and can be called upon in an emergency. I’ve moved somewhere I don’t love, but it’s cheap for the area and I can walk to work, which means that I have a plan to clear my debts.

There is a cloud that has been lifted and I can see far enough ahead to want to have the ability to save money, which means I need to clear debt first. It goes against all my instincts, because I want a security pot. But all the economics stuff I’ve read points to clearing off debt first – and to consider the interest saved by repaying as interest earned instead. And whilst I still squint at it, I kind of get it. And having put my money into a spread sheet and crunched the numbers, it’s a thing I can get on top of. It’ll probably take 2 years, give or take, but it’s under control and that feels much better. Because money has been, and probably always will be an enormous stressor for me.

And what this year has really taught me the hard way, is that I need to be less stressed. My heart was making me seriously scared to the point where I saw the doctor for it and had a lot of tests run because my blood pressure was scary high in the surgery. It turns out that over-all it’s just within limits, but something had to change. And I made that choice to change it. And it’s a choice I have to make regularly. I don’t drink caffeine. I already didn’t eat a lot of salt, but I’ve now reduced it further. I go to the gym now, I go and I do cardio. I sit on a bike with a heart rate monitor and I bang it out for at least half an hour, and 95% of the time I feel much-much better for it. I still get stressed though, but at least now when I feel my heart tripping out and like it’s trying to punch its way out of my throat I know it’s a stress reaction and I can take steps to lower my stress levels.

My anxiety and PTSD symptoms are much better. They are still a work in progress, but things don’t feel insurmountable. Mostly now it’s finding triggers that I didn’t realise I was avoiding until I have a massive reaction to them. Having a melt-down in work as a result of a flippant comment someone made was a fun one, as was breaking down in tears in a coffee shop reading a book that’s introduction was a graphic description of a car accident. (Quick aside about trigger warnings; if I had been expecting a thing about cars or car accidents in this book, I could have controlled my reaction to it. Instead I had an anxiety response because once I’d started reading it I had an idea of where it was going to go, and then it did. Not fun. Not pleasurable. Ruined all enjoyment. Please reconsider your position on trigger warnings if you’re against them.) But these moments catch me unawares because in day-to-day life I am much better. I am less hyper-vigilant, I am more relaxed.

This year I’ve made some really positive steps towards liking myself and treating myself with respect. And demanding that respect of others. It has meant there has been some adjustment as people got used to me as I am now. I have also been making efforts to be a better friend to the friends I already have, and I have been making efforts to make more friends. I feel like my social circle is too small, and being one of the few single folks I often feel like I’m over burdening my friends who have their own stuff, and the stuff of their partners as well. Making friends as an adult is hard though. And I am not great about trust and being open with people… I am trying. But being emotionally vulnerable makes me incredibly scared because I’ve had a lot of very shitty friends, and known some very shitty people. And look, I just don’t find painful things about my life funny. I can’t laugh at myself, because enough people laughed at me growing up, that you know. I just want to make friends with cool and chilled people who are non-judgemental and kind. So I am trying. I’ve reached out to someone at work who I thought was cool, and we’ve hung out a little.

I'm also trying to make connections with my cousins. I don't have a good relationship with my immediate family, and there is a lot of distance and in fighting at my parents level... but I don't see why that should affect 'the kids' (I say, we're all in our 30's and older). So I'm reaching out where I can and making plans to visit people, and just trying to build on something that has been lacking for over 30 years.

Next year I am going to make a commitment to go to more Meet Up events. I had some art classes through my work and that really rekindled my love for creative work, and whilst I can’t afford formal classes, I can afford a tenner to go out once a month for a drink-and-draw type thing where I can meet other people who like to draw, and at least we’ll have that in common. And if there’s no one I feel like I can talk to, I’ll at least have done some drawing. There’s also an art history group that I’m going to attend. If I could turn back time I would have done art history at college, but I can’t, so instead it’s a thing I can pick up now.

I also want find a choir I feel comfortable with. I attended a natural voice choir earlier in the year and was enjoying it right up until the moment the lady sat next to me ‘kindly’ pointed out that I was singing the wrong part… which just made me anxious and sad for the rest of the night as I tried super hard to sing the right bit. Which is a shame, because it was queer choir and I want to meet girls in an environment where I’m not trying to work out ‘friendly or gay’. I should probably just go back to this one, but I am lacking in the courage at the moment.

Another big step for 2016 is that I am starting to attend a class at the gym once a week to hit all the strength building needs. I feel like I’ve spent a year getting my base level fitness up and now I’m ready to step it up. I have an idea that I’d like to go on a cycling holiday later in the summer this year, and I’d like to start some short hikes this summer to get me used to it before I attempt anything in another country.

And related to this, I want to keep up with my language learning and I need to make it part of my daily routine. Not only will it make visiting friends easier, but it creates more opportunities for me.

Nearer to New Years I’ll hone this down properly to an actual to-do list for 2016, but Live Journal is getting my long form ramble about this all. Because this has also been the longest piece of writing that I’ve done in… months.

I have a couple of stories I want to write… or rather, worlds I want to play in. I want to get back into reading my friends writing too. I miss it, I really miss it. And I feel like losing this has been like losing part of me. But at the same time I have felt so incredibly busy, which I know is bullshit because I’m just playing computer games instead a lot of the time.

Well playing computer games and going to bed at a more reasonable hour, because funnily enough not getting enough sleep adds dramatically to my stress levels. And self-care is a kill-joy. Like, I do miss that slightly drunk irresponsible buzz you get when you’re sleep deprived. But I don’t miss the headaches and the irritability and the dizziness.

But yeah, I want to commit to writing some things this year. I would like to get past this… whatever it is… that is sat in the way.
 

Dec. 10th, 2015

(no subject)

I've been thinking about how to phrase this thing for a couple of days, and I can't find an approach that I like at all. So instead let me start with an apology for the clumsiness of this.

An internet friend (a very kind and sweet angel hence forth referred to as Agent) and I had been talking on and off for the past year or so about self-care things, offering support during low times, cheering through the highs. The usual kind of love and care you can expect from those who live a long way away and you've never met in meat-space.

We'd both wathced Jessica Jones and talked briefly about PTSD and how glad we were to see it presented really quite accurately (an anomoly for hollywood and mental illness). And she mentioned that she was going to be giving a talk at her college/university (I'm still never 100% sure what american's mean when they say school when it's clearly no-longer like... high-school). But anyway, she mentioned she was going to give a talk on the topic of PTSD to raise awareness and to promote empathy amongst people (have I mentioned Agent is an angel?). The topic of course is very close to me so I offered encouragement and said that I would love to see her notes from it.

And I woke the next morning to request from her to use one of my very early blog entries in her talk - and she provided a link to the piece. I of course said yes she could; these people are the other side of the country and there's nothing to connect the piece of writing to me directly, and for such a good cause I have no problem whatsoever. But what struck me on reading the piece was how eloquent I was and how little memory I have of writing it. But the feelings of that time came back pretty clearly. Now don't get me wrong, it was really good to re-read it to see how far I've come. I don't get panicky around people, I can walk outside without crying the minute I'm back indoors, I don't feel constantly stressed and angry. But, as Agent pointed out, even a month after the initial accident, even this one piece of writing that was just short of 500 words, I was already suffering from PTSD to the point where it could have been diagnosed on the DSM-V under Trauma and Stress related trauma's. Instead it took nearly 14 months to get some proper treatment, and just under 18 to get effective treatment.

Given that PTSD is a thing where the symptoms can worsen with time because you're perpetuating harmful behaviours... it's frustrating. But frustration is my over-riding experience of life in the last couple of years.

Once Agent had delivered the talk we chatted some more, and I was happy to hear that my writing had resonated with at least one poor girl to bring her to tears. She was from the Middle East and had been at a school which had been bombed whilst she was there. After she'd finished crying she was able to talk about how thunder storms bring on flash backs, and the nicest thing was that she was able to share this with her younger sister who is in the same group at school, and her sister had previously had no idea that this was a thing. It was really nice to hear that this girl whose life had been very different to mine was able to find through my work a way to connect to those around her.

And it's had a two pronged effect on me. I've been very in my head recently, a lot of thoughts about the person I used to be. The changes feel far more pronounced lately and whilst I am happy for the most part, there is a lot of things I want to reclaim and to make part of my life again. I guess writing this wall of text is part of that. I really need to get my confidence back with the written word, with what I have to say. And I feel very removed from who I used to be in a lot of ways, I've become aware of an intensity that I have that seems to have become far more prominent. I'm not sure if it was a thing that was always there, but my lack of social confidence meant that it didn't really come out. But I am a lot more assured now.

The second is that I'm seriously considering consolodating my blog entries and writing a book or a short story or something that could be illustrated. God I feel pretentious even writing it out. It felt amazing to know that what I had written had that kind of effect on someone who needed it, Agent's delivery and her handling of PTSD as a whole will have also assisted massively. But that connection feels incredibly powerful. And I feel like I have the opportunity to connect with more people, and maybe make the world a little better.
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Aug. 3rd, 2014

Week 16 - A terrible beauty has been born

I'll always be really grateful that my friend encouraged me to enter for LJI. When this season started five months ago I was still recovering from being hit by a car and dealing with brain damage (of the non-permanent kind, thankfully). Thinking coherently for any period of time was very difficult for me. Thinking ahead in any kind of way, planning and plotting was impossibly hard. Back in March I could just about manage conversations but I was still mixing up words, if not forgetting them entirely. It was a rough ride, I'm not going to lie. So LJI was a great way to make me sit down and write a thing to a defined schedule that had to go up for public consumption, so it had to be a thing I was sure was right. And it was hard work, but I enjoyed it.

At that time I had the energy to write the entry, but not the energy for the social side of things. As the competition progressed it became obvious that the social element was nearly as important as the writing itself. And as I eventually returned to full time work, and gained a schedule of daily physio, I had even less energy for the social element, which I will always remain sad about.

But more disappointing for me was my own reliance on blog-style non-fiction entries. These style of entries are far easier and quicker to write. And much less fun. Both for me to write, and for me to read. So it was with great sadness that I saw an awful lot of entries that were blogging, and blogging on a similar set of themes on a week to week basis, no matter what the topic set that week was.

I understand that a goodly portion of my point of view comes from my misunderstanding about what this contest fundamentally is. It had been seven or more years since I last had a livejournal and the kind of posts that appear both in this competition and across the site all have a very similar style, a very similar tone. It was rather nostalgic revisiting it, but I also realised that it was a style that I've largely moved away from. Both in my own writing, and in my reading choices.

I wish everyone remaining all the luck in the world and I hope that as the competition progresses you all endeavour to be a better writer than the writer you think you are.

This will be my final entry for LJI and I thank you for reading this far.

Jul. 10th, 2014

Week 14 - Confession from the Chair

Chewing the wood wasn’t the hard part. You’d think it would be, but with enough time, you can get through anything. I thought for a while I’d cracked a tooth but it was only a splinter stuck in my gum. I could have taken that as a sign to stop, but I’ve never been a quitter. No sir, once I’ve set my mind to a thing it gets done.

Drying out the pulp wasn’t the hard part. It was hot in that little room and well, it took a lot of time to chew the wood up to a pulp. Pressing it flat looked like it was going to be tricky, but pacing across the room solved that part. In the end it was thinner and dryer than the pages of a bible. Problem solving you see; no problems, only solutions.

Finding something to write with wasn’t the hard part. I thought about fingers and then I remembered the bones of the chair, the connective tissues, the nails, the screws. Short scratching things meant to impale. Tell the truth, I was a little concerned something that sharp might damage the paper, but I’d sucked them dry weeks ago and sometimes you’ve got to take risks.

Finding something to write with wasn’t the hard part. I know, I know I’m repeating myself but you don’t just need a pen. Using piss was out of the question, I was already using that to make the pulp between swigs. You might want to think about some air conditioning in there, also a cleaner. It smells like a latrine in there. So blood. Yes. It’s a confession written in blood. A little dramatic, I know, but you use what you’ve got.

Finding something to confess… now that was the hard part. I’d been in that room so long I’d forgotten why I’d even gone in. Well, aside from getting a confession from a chair. And there I was, the chair had broken down, I was ready, poised, to take it’s confession, I had put my heart and urine into this moment. Finally. I waited. Held my breath. And all I could think was ‘why didn’t I ask what they wanted a confession for’?

How would I know if I’d presented the right thing? I tried to think back to those last meetings, but I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t thinking all that straight by then. I think the heat had been getting to me. That and only talking with a chair for a fortnight. Well, I say 'with', I suppose it’s more of a ‘to’. I mean it’s not like the chair could talk back, which now I say it, I realise that’s where the problem was. How can you make the chair confess? But I’m not a quitter, no, I am not, I told you that so that is definitely the truth. And because I don’t quit I present you this, “Yes.” Whatever you need, yes, whatever it was, yes, whoever did it, yes, whatever you need, yes, the answer is, yes, I wrote it in blood so I know it’s true otherwise I wouldn’t have done it would I? I mean what I say and I say what I mean and I mean, yes, definitely, without a doubt. You can make up a question later can’t you? Just so long as you take this yes.
 

Jun. 30th, 2014

Week 13 - Open Topic (Unlucky for some)

Call it gullibility, a too trusting nature, or letting things get away from me. You could go with my parents and call it an “over-active imagination”, or maybe you’d prefer my teachers’ favourite; that I was “a sensitive child”. Whatever name you want to give it, superstition has always flowed from me like a cloak; no matter the distance I put between myself and it, the connection remains.

In its most dangerous form superstition took the shape of lies I would convince myself were real. A world where I mattered, and a life where I had control. That if it were not for me the artifice in which I lived would crumble and be revealed to be nothing; meaningless.

I’d conjured a world where my every step kept reality in its place.

And that’s a lot of responsibility for an eight year old to carry. Chubby, quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed me with the cosmos and all of time balanced precariously on my shoulders. But I’m an oldest child by birth, so I was used to being responsible for others and bore that burden in silence so as not to trouble the people I was saving each and every moment, of each and every day.

The real trouble came when faced with those chasms built into the paths of shopping parades. The easily navigated stretches of square paving slabs would be crossed with wide rivers of patterned bricks, rendering the space between the chemist and the record store a source of panic and determination.

To keep pace with my family was a must, but stepping on tip-toe across the bricks would have me falling behind. The life that I knew, that I was protecting, depended on me.

This led to many a leap of faith. Throwing myself over the stretch of brickwork so confident that it would be a lesser crime to land clumsily and noisily and embarrass my mother and endure the beating when I got home than risk the obliteration that would have otherwise followed.

I grew out of this eventually; after I’d tempted fate enough times and realised that the world wasn’t going to end I learnt to deal with my insignificance. Or maybe it’s more that as I grew up and moved away from home I found other reasons to exist; I was in control of my own life at last.

But as an adult I still find myself keeping the world together on my travels. Now the urge finds me in cars; travelling down motorways I sew the world together. The thread spools from my soul and dips in and out of the asphalt, running stiches in the space's between the white lines, between the rhythmic thumps of the shadows of lamp posts.

If the passenger window is down you might find my hand surfing the air, only that I, and only I, know is that it’s the thread keeping us on the road. Because here again I'm a passenger, looking for some control so I can keep everyone safe. Always the elder sibling and doing my best to save us all.

Jun. 9th, 2014

Week 11 - Recency Bias

Content Advisory - Some talk of Trauma. Read More...Collapse )

May. 8th, 2014

Week 8 - Yes, and

I moved to London about two weeks before the Olympic Games in 2012, in fact I moved to the London borough where the games were being held. From my bedroom I could hear the rehearsals for the opening ceremony, and then the following week, the ceremony itself. But the Winter Olympics is the one that I really love; it contains my favourite events (Figure Skating and the Skeleton Bob) and every four years I’d sit down and watch it avidly. But this year I didn’t. Due to the hosting country, Russia’s, implementation of legislation which punishes those promoting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” I took part in the boycott.

With the publicity that the Winter Olympics generated, and the international response to Russia’s policies, it is rather hard to not know about the persecution and discrimination currently happening to people whose human rights are being abused in Russia.

Yes, this is awful, and yes we need to be aware it, and do you know what else we need to be aware of? On Wednesday, in Uganda, a court began hearing a case against two men accused of engaging in gay sex. This is the first trial of homosexuals in the country since a new Anti-Homosexuality bill was passed on February 24th. This is an abuse of human rights of a different scale to what is happening in Russia where, legally at least, the punishments for public activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals are fines.

True, it was already a crime to be gay in Uganda, and previously, adults found to have had same-sex relationships used to face seven years in prison. However the new law introduced earlier this year goes even further to criminalise LGBTI individuals by lengthening sentences for adults found ‘guilty’ of same-sex relationships, and extending punishments for people involved in ‘promoting’ homosexuality.

To quote Amnesty International: “LGBTI individuals deemed to be ‘serial offenders’ (ie; frequently convicted of having sex with someone of the same sex or ‘related convictions’) face a lifetime behind bars, as do those with HIV who have consensual same-sex relations. If you host two people who engage in same-sex relations in your house, you could be found to be running a brothel and dealt a seven-year prison sentence.”

Not only does this law directly affect those individuals accused, but also the health workers, police officers, and aid workers. All the people who work for bodies that exist to provide help and assistance now face ethical dilemmas around reporting or not reporting suspected same-sex conduct of the very people seeking their help.

In a country where discrimination already existed, this has only fuelled further hatred and will almost certainly lead to discrimination when accessing healthcare, as well as other fundamental services.

Shortly after the bill was made law, the Ugandan tabloid paper Red Pepper published a list of the ‘top 200 gays’ in Uganda. Many of them were being outed for the first time. This was a horrifying echo of the now-defunct Rolling Stone paper, who several years ago published its own list of purported gay Ugandans. Months later, gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in his home. One of the men recently outed in the Red Pepper spoke to the BBC about how he can no longer speak to his family or return to Uganda after his name appeared on the list.

People are being murdered or run into hiding because of who they love.

And right now I can’t decide what makes me sadder regarding the two young men currently on trial in Uganda; that they are on trial at all, or that they were arrested as they fled an angry mob.

I can’t make policy change. I’m not a Ugandan citizen or resident. I’m not a Russian citizen or resident. I’m not in government. I don’t have a voice at a political level. But I can make small acts. I can make choices. I can add my voice and by increasing the number of people who are aware of, and talking about the abuse of human rights in countries like Uganda, as well as Russia, I can help make sure that the people who are in government, who do have a voice at a political level, will make a difference.

Apr. 28th, 2014

Week 7 - No True Scotsman

Power. That was what you needed. But Rahim was a soldier first and foremost, and he understood that power was a means and not an end. Power would let him do the things he wanted to do. Things like stop the war. His fellow men, all carved in animal form, had fallen to the imperial soldiers’ weapons. Part-human, part-animal, they were only recognised for their humanity when they were wanted to fill the ranks of Kind Arun’s armies. So they had risen up and fought back, but the imperial army had them by sheer force of numbers. What is militia of some hastily trained two hundred trained soldiers against an army of thousands? Some of Rahim’s comrades had been skinned for their fur, others butchered for their ivory. He was the last of them. A rolling tiger of a man, his fur dripping, his tail swaying, as he marched ever onwards towards the capitol.

In the capitol sat the king, a man not much older than Rahim, but much less battle weary and unfortunately for him, much less godlike. Rahim could feel the power of the orb, stolen from the castle beneath the lake, crackle in his lungs. His claws closed around the stone as he carried it at his side like it was nothing more than a piece of fruit, and he padded onwards, leaving his prints in the soft earth of the country as he made for the capitol. Once through the gates, Rahim cut through the inhabitants of the city, the clatter of his claws on the stone slabs sending folks shimmying back, their shoulders pressed against the walls to give this man-tiger and his twitching tail all the room he could possibly need as he stalked up to the castle, the palace, and the seat of the king.

“I will speak with Arun.” Sun and determination had dried Rahim’s fur, now it bristled with dust and anger.

The guards that barred his way were men through and through with skin the colour of the river bed.  “An animal is not worthy to speak our glorious leader’s name.” Their armour shifted like punctuation. “Be gone.”

“You mistake me; it is not a request;” Rahim ran his tongue over his teeth, before settling his features into something very close to a smile. “I will speak with Arun.”

The first guard took his sheathed sword and drove the decorated point into Rahim’s shoulder in a futile attempt to drive him back. But you did not guard King Arun without being able to recover well, so unfaltering the guard switched tack. “You will bow. You will apologise. You will leave.”

 “How sad for you.”  The orb pulsed in his paw in time to the clenching of his jaw, “How sad for your parents to have raised such fools, you bring great shame on your families.” A sigh fell out of Rahim that left him short of breath, his lungs empty as all the anger poured out of him and into a solid burst of pure energy that thumped from the stone in his hand. The guards that had barred his way folded in on themselves. You’d have mistaken it for kneeling were it not for the sounds of heads meeting the ground. Shaking with the effort to draw breath Rahim stepped over the bodies, “At least now they no longer carry your burdens.”

But the guards were not the only souls to have fallen. Bodies littered the courtyard like an orchard at harvest time; ripe fruit freshly fallen from a tree with juice seeping from split skins and staining the ground. And Rahim strode across the square as a general of an invading army. He strode through the corridors towards the throne room as the last of the rebels, the defacto leader, with the power of some near forgotten god in one hand, he would take victory with the other.

The throne room was quiet when Rahim entered, for dead men don’t breathe. However a living king does, and it was King Arun that spoke first; one hand splayed on a map of the continent, a dagger in another; “Your kind make me sick, you think you can walk in here and do what? We’re going to talk? I’m going to give you disgusting people what you want? You think that none of this is for you? For your own good? You don’t understand-“

“Oh I understand,” said Rahim, advancing on the King, “I understand-“

“Shut up. Listen when your king is talking.” Arun said, the map crumpling beneath his hand.

Rahim replied with a smile that could have cut ice; “You are not my king.”

“Ahah!” Arun punctuated the air with the dagger in his hand, “How can you say you are fighting for your countrymen, if I am not your king? A true citizen would be on their knees begging for my forgiveness.”

“Ahh,” Rahim said, seeming to ponder the question as he moved closer, his shoulders slinking as he narrowed in on his prey, “…but you are a man and not a country.” Rahim’s great paw wound its way into King Arun’s robes, taking a fistful of fabric at the king’s chest before dragging Arun closer to him. “And you see, I fight for my country before I fight for any man.”

 

Apr. 19th, 2014

Week 6 - Step on a crack

Today I met a guy called Dave. One of those stringy fellas who, on first meeting, you’re not sure whether they’re strung out on something or malnourished.

After sitting and chatting with him quietly for an hour the latter was more likely the case. You see, Dave had been homeless for nine months. We didn’t talk about his experiences directly, but it flavoured a lot of what he had to say. He could say he ‘had been homeless’ but would always talk about the experiences of sleeping rough in third person, in reference to other people he’d known.

But what I could gather was that being homeless was the worst thing that had happened to him. That true desperation comes from not having a roof over your head and from spending your days fighting to keep your mind clear. A task that seems insurmountable when you don’t have the basic security of shelter.

He’d come over because he’d wanted a light; though considering I don’t smoke it was more likely he’d wanted to talk to me. I think he thought I was sleeping rough, with my denim jacket and my hood thrown up over my hair, huddled over a book on a park table on a bitter spring morning. As our conversation progressed he’d made gentle prods to check that I was living somewhere and once he knew that, he went on to make sure that my landlord was okay, that my landlord wasn’t one of the rogue ones that just take your money and kick you onto the street. Which was how Dave had ended up homeless.

And the scary thing is, I’m really not that far from that. I have a job and I have a roof over my head but I have no margin for error, and no family I could rely on, so one misstep and that’ll be me. I’ll have slipped between the cracks in society and climbing back out would be, from Dave’s story, an impossibly hard task. Not that I told him that, when you hear about the folks he knew who had killed themselves, had purposely over-dosed, who were committed to psychiatric hospitals with fresh rope burns around their necks, I said the only thing I could say, “I’m very fortunate, and I’m very grateful for what I have.”

After he’d asked me for a light, he’d asked me about the book I was reading before telling me that he was a writer, though only by pen and paper but he was taking a course for computers. He used to be security detail at a famous museum that housed a famous library. And being an East-End boy in those surroundings, well, it’d rubbed off on him. He’d worked there for fourteen years, he’d met royalty and an ex-president as well as film stars at functions held at the museum, but whilst we were chatting in this East London Park a young man in a worse looking state than Dave came over to greet him. Angry and frustrated with life he was polite to me, apologising for swearing, before bending my table-mate’s ear for a goodly while, talking about how he hoped that he could stop being the type of person who’d glass someone, even whilst telling us about smashing a bottle over his brother-in-law’s head a fortnight ago.

As this young man left us, Dave turned back to me to say “I don’t know what he wanted. You heard him, he’s got a roof over his head.” And what do you say to that? Aside from pointing out that sometimes folks just need to talk. Much like Dave seemed to have honed in on me this morning, he’d been the recipient for that young man. And everyone needs someone to talk to, someone to remind them that they’re real and that they can still be seen. They all had lives before and they still have lives now. They need to know that they’re not just one amongst those hundreds of people who sleep inside the large shopping mall that’s a public byway so has to be open 24/7. Even if the local council wanted to close the doors they couldn’t. And how can you toss that many people out of the relative safety, the relative warmth, of a shopping mall onto the literal streets? At that point it becomes a question of morals.

You can support all the charities that you want, you should support all the local initiatives that are working to get people into homes, but individuals can’t make policy changes. That’s down to government. A government for which Dave had a few choice words. And I realised, as I bid Dave farewell and shook his hand to return to the comfort of my room in a shared house; people that have slipped between the cracks need real help, they need physical help, but they need more than just a roof. That’s only a starting point. A launching pad. A place to rebuild from. And more often than not these people have been broken by life by the time they get there, and it’s hard to rebuild when you have broken tools.

Apr. 13th, 2014

Week 5 - Build a Better Mousetrap; but at what cost?

Chakori singing by the river,
gathering the wood with care.
Her features she watched in the water,
weaving rue into her hair.
At what cost.
At what cost.

The fakir offered her a mirror,
Chakori should have asked the cost.

Nineteen years she’d been a maiden,
Chakori knew she wanted more.
She would take herself a partner,
and see what kind of fruit they bore.
At what cost.
At what cost.

She opened up the fakir’s mirror,
Chakori should have asked the cost.

She saw the silver moon reflected,
his face she held tight in her hands.
Her hair bore wings and flew to greet him,
her feet grew roots into the land.
At what cost.
At what cost.

The fakir’d offered her invention,
Chakori should have asked the cost.

Now she stands out in the forest,
her hair a roosting crown of birds.
Chakori guards the dreams of lovers,
though she will not fulfil hers.
That’s the cost.
That’s the cost.

The mirror’s reflection was better,
and now Chakori knew the cost.

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