Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Last Post

We're off to Brighton shortly to house and cat-sit out the holidays.

The next time I come in here it will be 2008.

Whether we know each other in Real Life ...
or through the blog ...
or whether you're one of the many people who regularly come in here but never make yourself known ...
... I wish you happiness and good health for the new year.

Stay safe, all of you, and take care of yourselves and each other.
Spread some light if you can.

Debi xxx

Saturday, December 22, 2007

MARK REID 1964-2007.

It must be about ten years since I first met you, Mark.
You had the bash on the ramp leading up to London Bridge Station.
I used to see you twice a day, three times a week on my way into work.

At first we'd just exchange greetings as I gave you my change.
But gradually we got talking.

You told me some of your story.

For a while you lived in a community squatting in a Cornish rhododendron forest.
But when you were thrown off the land, the commune broke up and you ended up on the streets of London again.

By the time I met you, you had been homeless for nearly twenty years and addicted to heroin and super strength lager for most of them.

Though not tall, you were bulky and not just because of the layers of clothes you wore.
A shambling beggar with filthy skin and ageless eyes and the creaking joints of a geriatric.
But you were so much more than that.

You talked to me about heroin.
About how good it made you feel.
It kept you warm, you told me, and protected you from viruses and reality.

You talked about your attempts to get clean.
About your efforts to come off the streets.

You shared your letters with me and together we tried to work out the best way to deal with the constant obstacles placed before you.

I gave you a blanket once.
A thick woolen blanket I'd had as a child.
The next time I saw you, it was gone.
Either stolen from you or more likely traded up towards filling the next syringe.
I didn't mind.
I hoped that wherever it had moved onto, someone was glad for its warmth.

And once you gave me some candles you'd made yourself from layers of tightly packed paper on a cardboard base.
They worked too.
I kept them on the balcony.

You knew that survival was a series of bargains and that you had to give in order to receive.
So you decorated your bash and the surrounding area with flowers, wind chimes and ornaments.
You engaged people in conversation.
Sometimes you'd sing or dance.
But sometimes you'd be completely out of it, barely conscious.

A few times you fell asleep with the money you'd collected in full view.
I'd move it under your blanket or into a pocket.

I introduced G and the boys to you a couple of times when they came to meet me at work.
They'd heard me speak of you often and I'd told you all about them.

Then the day came when you showed me a letter saying you were going to be housed at last.
I thought I might not see you after that but of course it was far from the answer to all your problems.
There are no easy solutions, are there, Mark?
With no furniture, fridge, cooker etc and contending with addiction and minimal support, you still had a habit to feed.
So each day you'd return to your old patch.

But I have a confession to make, Mark.
Although I'd still stop to talk, I rarely gave you money after that, did I?
You see, by that time I'd met Richard, the Irish guy who had the patch further up on the bridge.
I know you saw him as a competitor, but the way I saw it, you were the walking wounded whereas Richard could barely crawl.
We never spoke about me directing my limited resources away from you and to him.
But I know you knew about it.
Sorry, Mark.

After I stopped working, I only saw you once or twice more.
The last time was a couple of years ago when I bumped into you in Peckham Rye Station.
You were with a couple of other guys, clearly on the hustle.
You had a bike.
You looked pretty good.

Then yesterday, I opened the local paper.
Addict's Death: 3 Hunted was the headline.
They might just as well have said Just Another Dead Junkie.

And so it was that I found out the sketchy details of what happened to you in the last few weeks.
Apparently, some time between 11th and 28th November, you were beaten up in Peckham by a man and two women.
You were picked up by the cops in Horsham on 1st December and taken to East Surrey Hospital with head and face injuries.
But you discharged yourself the following day.
On 2nd December you called an ambulance to South Kensington.
Your nose had been continually bleeding.
They took you to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where they diagnosed a fractured skull.
You died there four days later.
A post-mortem carried out on 10th December proved inconclusive.
They're doing further tests.

What happened to you, Mark?
Presumably the fuzzy details of the attack came from you yourself.
Were you involved in something that made you a particular target?
That took you from Peckham to Horsham to Kensington?
Or was the attack simply random and unconnected to that unlikely-seeming itinerary?
The story will never now be told, will it?

And what happens next?
If they're still doing tests, your body must now be lying in some hospital mortuary somewhere.
What will happen afterwards when they've finished with you?
No funeral I suppose.
Just some anonymous burial in an unmarked plot.
Who would come anyway?
Who would care?

There's a photo of you with the article.
A tightly-cropped portrait.
Semi-profile, you're looking towards the camera and laughing.
You look really happy in that photo.
I wish I could put it in here but I don't have a scanner and there's nothing I could find online.

No life should pass unnoticed or uncared about.

This may be the only memorial to you.

Rest in peace, Mark Reid.

I've never amended a post before as it seems somehow deceitful, but I've made an exception here.
Since this post was published, I've been contacted by Mark's sisters. (See here.)
I've searched my memory and my conscience and have had to admit my recollection of Mark's exact words re his childhood may have been inaccurate.
Since this post was always intended as a memorial to Mark, it feels wrong that it may have contained inaccuracies, causing further hurt to those who knew and loved him.
I'm delighted to know that Mark was indeed very much cared for, though in some ways it makes it even sadder that he was unable - for whatever reason - to access that love in the last years of his life.
Mark had his own journey and his own tragic trajectory.
I send my heartfelt wishes for strength and healing to his sisters and mother.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I think I might be on a mini roll ...

You know how it sometimes feels like things have been sort of STUCK and then they somehow shift?

I think (she says not wanting to tempt fate) that this might be what's happening for me:
Let's not forget what brought about this shift:
But maybe ... before all of that ... there was this and then this.

Sometimes you just need to let a little time to pass in order to see the significance of something.

So it seems I could be ending this year on a mini roll ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are they mad?

According to a recent YouGov poll, more people want to be an author than any other profession.

Don't they know how hard it is?
Don't they know they'd be letting themselves in for a lifetime of anxious waiting for someone to pass judgment on them?

(If they're unpublished, this will be an agent.
If they've got that far, this will be a commissioning editor at a publishing house.
If the editor likes their work, this will be the marketing and sales depts.
If they achieve the elusive deal and their book is published, this will be reviewers.
And so it goes on ...)

And don't they know that if they do get the deal, they themselves will be expected to be part of the package? (See here for Danuta Keane's take on branding.)

And don't they know that authors who make a living from their writing are nearly as rare as honest politicians?

Don't get me wrong.
I love being a writer.
I love the euphoric high when the words spill out in an unstoppable torrent.
And even more do I love the mixture of triumph, relief and delight you get when you finish a book.

But I don't think I could say I ever chose this way of life.
I didn't wake up one day and say, 'I know. I'll be an author ...'

Writing is as much a part of me as the blood, sweat and tears it so frequently produces.
It's not a choice.
It's a compulsion.

Would anyone really choose that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If you can judge a society by the way it treats children ...

I know you're probably busy.

Running round buying presents, planning menus, hanging decorations and all that stuff ...

But please please please take the time to read this article in The New Statesman.

NB: Approx 2,000 children pass through UK holding centres each year.
Their imprisonment breaches a key UN Convention.

Puts not being able to buy the latest fad into some perspective, eh?

Thanks to Fiction Bitch for bringing the article to our attention.

There's a leg in my stocking ...

The wonderful Crimeficreader, uncrowned but undisputed queen of the crime blogs, has published a series of posts where authors choose their favourite book of the year as their must-have read for those seasonal stockings.

You can see my choice here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Done it!

I've just written the last words of the first draft of The Gene Pool!

I can't quite believe it.
This book has taken double the length of time of any of its 4 predecessors and has caused me more angst than all the others put together.

Is it any good?
To be honest, I don't know yet.
But at least I now have something to print out and work on in order to trim any excess fat and add garnish and flavour as necessary and come up with a finished manuscript.

I'm excited.
And triumphant.
Excuse me while I go off and dance around my laptop ...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More munches than trenches

FB's account of his trip to Ypres:

I couldn't eat for at least a couple of hours. Then I had my first roll - the egg mayo one - on the Shuttle. We had lunch in the trenches. It was vegetable stew and sausages. Obviously I didn't eat the sausages. But the stew was delicious. Luckily for me, everyone else hated it so they gave me theirs. Later on we had hot chocolate. Then we went chocolate shopping - look, I've brought back a bag. Oh - before the chocolate I had a mango ice cream and bought some chewing gum. I ate the cheese salad roll on the way home. I'm starving. What's for supper?

Just to prove the trip consisted of more than the above foodfest account might suggest, here are some of his photos.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My baby's in the trenches

First Born has gone on a school trip today to Ypres with this lot.

He had to be at school by 5am (gasp!) and won't be home 'til late tonight.
I suspect the organisers might be attempting to recreate the exhaustion of battle ...

In between arriving in Belgium and the inevitable chocolate shopping, he's going to be going through the emotional wringer according to the packed itinerary which includes re-enactments, visits to a cemetery, a journey through the trenches and talks from ex-servicemen.

'I'm going to embarrass myself,' he told me last night.
'Why?' I asked.
'Because I'm sure to cry,' he replied.

I told him that was fine and that tears are the absolute appropriate response under the circumstances.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quick! Before it's too late ....

A message from Avaaz via Merc.

Climate negotiations in Bali are in crisis.
Things were looking good till now: near-consensus on a delicate deal, including 2020 targets for rich countries, in return for which China and the developing world would do their part over time. IPCC scientists say such targets are needed to prevent catastrophe. But Japan, the US and Canada are banding together to wreck the deal, and the rest of the world is starting to waver...

We can’t let three stubborn governments throw away the planet's future. We have until the end of Friday to do everything we can. Please sign our emergency global petition below -- we'll deliver it through stunts at the summit, a full-page ad in the Jakarta Post read by all the delegates (see below, right), and directly to negotiators to stiffen their nerve against any bad compromise. Add your name to the campaign below now!

Please go here to sign the petition.

Gutted by my WIP

Just had to come in here and say I'm on a rollercoaster with the The Gene Pool.

Nearly finished the first draft and I've just written a couple of chapters that make me feel like I've lived through several traumatic lifetimes simultaneously.

Some people think that writing means you sit on your arse all day, so what can possibly be difficult about it?

I'm too drained to even begin to explain ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shock horror - people are interested in sex!

Who'd've thought it?

As a result of my teeny linky post here, I've had over 100 visits to my blog today from people searching for 'Sex in the Noughties', 'Girl with a One Track Mind' or 'sex blogs'.

Not for one moment did I expect that since ... er ... my post didn't actually say anything at all!
Boy, are they going to be disappointed when they get here!

There are sexy bits of my blog, I suppose, just because I blog about life and sex is a part of life. (Well, derrr ...)
But it's certainly not a sex blog as such.

The programme last night provided an opportunity for Zoe to state her case - which is mainly, what's all the fuss about?
People have always had sex.
People have always enjoyed sex.
People have always talked about enjoying sex.

Zoe happens to talk about it in an intelligent and entertaining way that has obviously had resonances for many other people.
She also did it anonymously and went to great lengths to protect that anonymity.
But when she was 'outed' by the tabloids, all hell broke loose.

So I was glad that the programme gave her the chance to give her version in her own words.

The programme had its faults - see here for Zoe's own list.
And personally I couldn't see the point of the constant images of women blogging in the nude ...

I mean, if I was sitting here starkers, I'd have goose pimples larger than my breasts!
How sexy an image is that???

Hey - who turned the lights out?

Our festival of light is over for another year.

And it's still cold and dark ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sex in the Noughties

Tonight at 10pm on Channel 4, this series ends with a look at Sex Blogs, focusing in particular on our very own Girl with a One Track Mind.

Art Imitating Life?

Or is it the other way round?

And can you always be sure which is which?

Take me, for example.
I'm real.
And this blog is real.
I don't write fiction on my blog, so everything you read here is real.

Or is it?

Maybe you've constructed me.
Maybe I've constructed myself.
Maybe I'm a figment of my own imagination and I've drawn you in to join me in the fantasy.

In which case, who am I???
(The fish say if I don't get a grip, I'm going to end up disappearing up my own arse any minute now.)

Bear with me here.
I haven't lost it.
In fact, I think I might have found it.
Except I'm not too sure yet what 'it' is ...

The thing is, when you write fiction you create characters and place them in a world that is also of your creation.
Except mostly it's not.
If you write contemporary fiction, you place your characters in the real world.
You put them in a situation and then you let them loose and see where they go.
Once you've done that, you've made them real, haven't you?

One of the reasons I chose to write a series is that I felt my characters were 'out there' after my first book, leading their lives whether I chose to write about them or not.
So I chose.

The situations I place my characters in may be more extreme than most of us would hope to encounter, but they're not totally unrealistic.
There are plenty of people who spend their lives lurching from one crisis to the next.
My own life has rarely run on a smooth plane for long.
I've survived a lot and I've learned a lot.

Not everyone's life is like that.
There are those who seem to sail on calm waters.
They fulfill parental expectations.
After a happy childhood, they go on to have secure jobs.
Healthy children.
A decent standard of living.

They are the stalwarts ... the bastions ... the pillars ...

And - here's the thing I'm getting at if you're still here - what their lives have is ...
... a different narrative arc to mine.

Unless you're very young, you should be able to look back and see the narrative arc of your own life.

It might be shallow and steady.
You'll probably be contented.
This is what you want from life.
An easy ride.
Safe and controlled.
You feel secure.
You won't look back in 20 - 30 - 40 years time with regret because you've made a definite choice.

On the other hand, you might look back and see a series of alternating peaks and troughs.
You will have plumbed the depths of pain and bear the scars.
You will also have scaled the heights of euphoria felling that this is what life is for -
- to be lived to the fullest.

So what's the narrative arc of your life?
And would you really, if you're 100% honest with yourself, be able to live it any other way?

We're all the authors of our own lives.
And we're all real.
Aren't we???

Monday, December 10, 2007

Curioser and curioser

Remember when I got buzzed by the Enchantress?

Well, I just went into the boys' room ...
... and there, lying in the middle of the floor was ...

No - not the Enchantress again - she was still lying next to my laptop ...

This time it was the whole bloody Tarot pack!
(You may remember I didn't even know where the pack was, though I suspected it was on top of our wardrobe.)

I asked the boys if they knew how it had got there and they both said they'd never seen it before I came out of their room holding it.

Weird, eh?

UPDATE: It was the Empress, wasn't it, not the Enchantress ...
Doh! Is there such a thing as the Enchantress?

Looks at Books

Some fab new content on Bookarazzi.

Click here for a chilling article re the realities of being published.

And here for the virtual bookstore, where you can see (and buy!) books written by Bookarazzi members. (Coo - what a lot we got ...)

There's lots more too, so whether you're a writer or a reader, there should be plenty to chew over.

There have been a few changes to the appearance of the site too, thanks to techy genius, Lucy Pepper.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Spend your money wisely ...

A friend of mine runs a charity called ALD Life.
Both her sons have Adrenoleukodystrophy, which if you've ever seen the film, Lorenzo's Oil, will be familiar to you.

You can read their story here - I challenge you not to:
1) cry
2) be amazed at her single minded determination to do the very best for her children.

Anyway, I just received an email from her.

She's always coming up with new and imaginative ways to fundraise and with the splurging season coming up, this is timely.

We have just joined a service called Simple Fundraising. This is a fundraising website that earns commission from retail outlets and utility services for ALD Life or your chosen charity every time you shop online from the site. The link for our fundraising page is here. Simply register and then start shopping – you can even do online grocery shopping at Tescos or ASDAs and earn money for us! This really is a fantastically easy way to help us raise money so please pass this on to all your friends and encourage them to do their Xmas etc. shopping online through the link above.

Thank you all for your support and happy retail therapying!!

So, if you're planning on spending some of your hard-earned, here's a way to do so and help others at the same time.

Happy Chanukah - or Eid, Divali, Yule, Xmas - or whichever festival of light you celebrate.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

That was the weekend that was ...

Right. The details of the weekend as promised.

In case you haven't worked it out:
  • The Cornish witch was of course our very own Kate of Inner Minx, who arrived on Friday from Cornwall
  • The Irish poet was Cailleach of Barbara's Bleeuugh. She arrived Saturday morning from Ireland.
  • The pipe and slippers belonged to Tom of this posse. Minxy and I met him on Friday to chat about 'things'.
  • The eco fair took place on Goose Green on Saturday lunchtime.
  • The gathering of blogging authors was where we went next to meet up with the following Bookarazzi buddies who had come from far and wide to chat and stroke each other's books:

Greg Stekelman from north London of The Man Who Fell Asleep
Granny P from Lanzarote of Rockpool in the Kitchen
Elizabeth Baines from Manchester of Fiction Bitch
Cailleach from Ireland of Barbara's Bleeuugh!
Shauna Reid from Scotland of The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl
Gaz from Coventry of Bowen T Hunter
Clare Dudman from Chester of Keeper of the Snails
Emma Darwin from south London (turns out she lives 9 doors away from me!) of This Itch of Writing
Ash from Scotland of Random Burblings
Rachel from North London
Kate from Cornwall of Inner Minx
... and yours truly.
  • The birthday (not mine) was Babs's. Her 40th, which we celebrated with a small party at home - including cake (chocolate, naturally).

The gin and chocolate need no further explanation, I presume.

PS: Spent ages faffing round trying to upload pix but have stopped before I lose the will to live.
Minx has some on her post.
Update: Risen to the challenge and in spite of triple brain bypass have managed to upload the pix.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Debi and her Dad. Part 10

So there was I, planning a post about my fabarooni weekend, but you never know what's around the corner.

I went to dad's yesterday and took him for a dental appointment.
While he was being seen, I ran off to get some shopping ...
... and came back to see him being loaded into an ambulance, the dentist standing on the pavement wringing his hands.

3.5 hours later I was able to take dad home in a cab.
Arrived back in south London just in time for a 6 o'clock meeting at FB's school, having eaten nothing since breakfast.

I have to go back to see dad again today as I didn't get the chance to sort his pills and do his shopping yesterday, so will report back on the weekend when I get the chance.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this:
Nurse: You're 93? Wow. So what's the secret of longevity?
Dad: Don't die!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Quality Time

I'm heading for a very exciting weekend.

Here are some of the things it will include:
  • A Cornish witch
  • An Irish poet
  • A pipe and a pair of slippers
  • An eco fair
  • A gathering of blogging authors
  • A birthday (not mine)
  • Home made jam
  • Some of this ...
  • And a lot of this ...

So we might end up like this ...
Details when it's over ...

Gold standard advice for authors

The Writers' Workshop have a fab revamped site packed with useful tips.

Click through for advice on finding an agent, self-publishing and what to avoid, how to write a synopsis as well as stacks of information on how to create the perfect book and much more.

You can also check their blog here.

Splurt your coffee on your screen

That's what this made me do just now.

Don't know how to do the funny linky thingy to YouTube so click here.

Thanks to Bowen for bunging this my way.

Now where's the screen wipes?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Children writing about the sea

Hideously busy so I've allowed the fish to post the following:

1) This is a picture of an octopus. It has eight testicles. (Kelly age 6)

2) Oysters' balls are called pearls. (James age 6)

3) If you are surrounded by sea you are an Island . If you don't have sea all round you, you are incontinent. ( Wayne age 7)

4) Sharks are ugly and mean, and have big teeth, just like Emily Richardson . She's not my friend no more. (Kylie age 6)

5) A dolphin breaths through an arsehole on the top of its head. (Billy age 8)

6) My uncle goes out in his boat with pots, and comes back with crabs. (Millie age 6)

7) When ships had sails, they used to use the trade winds to cross the ocean. Sometimes, when the wind didn't blow, the sailors would whistle to make the wind come. My brother said they would be better off eating beans. (William age 7)

8) I like mermaids. They are beautiful, and I like their shiny tails. How do mermaids get pregnant? (Helen age 6)

9) I'm not going to write about the sea. My baby brother is always screaming and being sick, my Dad keeps shouting at my Mum, and my big sister has just got pregnant, so I can't think what to write. (Amy age 6)

10) Some fish are dangerous. Jellyfish can sting. Electric eels can give you a shock. They have to live in caves under the sea where I think they have to plug themselves into chargers. (Christopher age 7)

11) When you go swimming in the sea, it is very cold, and it makes my willy small. (Kevin age 6)

12) Divers have to be safe when they go under the water. Two divers can't go down alone, so they have to go down on each other. (Becky age 8)

13) On holiday my Mum went water skiing. She fell off when she was going very fast. She says she won't do it again because water shot up her fanny. (Julie age 7).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A small and imperfectly formed competition

OK. What's this?
Click on image to enlarge should you so desire.
The prize for the first person to give the correct answer is ...

... er ... me saying you've won.
(What do you mean by saying that's rubbish?)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reading and Weeping is not enough


I met him with my mother for half an hour in Bedford Hospital where i had been admitted. The guards stood with us. He [Sir Al Aynsley-Green] had kind eyes. Then he said to the nurse he wanted go to a private room. We went into the private room and the guards were sat outside.

Then, he asked me what is going on, i told him everything, my problems. And then he asked me “how were you before you were detained in Yarlswood?” I said i was really really happy with my friends. then he said “well how do you feel in yarls wood?” I said, “i feel really unhappy”. He was writing everything down. And then he said he was really really angry about what was happening to me.

He asked me if we went back to Germany what will happen? I said obviously the Germans will send us back to turkey and turkeys dangerous for us. And then he understood we were Kurds and didn't ask anymore about that.

He asked me how my mum was, i told the truth that she is really really depressed and I looked after her, she needs me. He said he understands.

He said why did you hurt yourself. I said because i was locked up in the detention centre for almost three months now. he said did you ever think about suicide outside the detention centre. I said i never even had that thought because i had my school and friends and my mum next to me.

After he spoke to me, I said to him look Mr Green are you going to after this conversation act like you never knew me or are you going to help me get released. Then he said I’m going to help you get released from here, and I guarantee you I will speak to the minister privately.

And then we just stood up and shook hands and left the room and he walked straight out. Me and my mum walked to our ward with the guards. After like twenty minutes or so, the manager of the guards was speaking on the phone, and then I heard him say "the stupid commissioner has got involved..." I felt bad, like Mr Green could not help me now.

I said to the nurse about my supporters sending emails to the hospital for my birthday and could I see the emails because they were taking me back to yarls wood. The nurse said ‘yes of course you need to go the administration office’. I asked the guards but they said I couldn’t go, but I would have liked to read them. We waited until they discharged us. The guards didn’t speak to us at all. then we came back to yarls wood. it feel bad inside because we are locked up again, i don't know for how long. most of all, if i had a choice i would want to go back to school. I just wish I was with my friends, doing ordinary stuff, not being locked up like this.


Dear Sir Al,

I implore you to please do everything in your power to secure Meltem Avcil's release alongwith her mother so that they can pursue their legal battle to remain in the UK in relative freedom. Neither Meltem or her mother ever tried to abscond from their home despite repeated threats from the immigration authorities, there is no reason for them to be locked up in Yarlswood.

As you will be aware, Meltem has suffered considerable psychological trauma as a result of her incarceration. She has gone from being a happy child to a depressed self harmer seeking out suicide pacts with fellow young 'detainees' at Yarlswood, where some fifty other children are locked up. At her last bail hearing, the judge wanted to see medical evidence of her unhappiness, the existing medical notes from Medical Justice now confirm the obvious. Surely the Minister you plan to meet can now instruct the immigration officials to grant Chief Immigration Officers bail to allow Meltem and her mum back home to Doncaster?

This country effectively allowed Meltem Avcil to remain here for over six years, while officials dithered over whether she is a refugee or an asylum seeker. As you know better than me, a child growing up in a country for six of the most formative years of her life doesn't see a refuge or a temporary place; she sees her home, her country. And her fluent English with perfect Doncaster accent tells us that too. This is her home and noone has the right to take that - or her liberty for that matter - away from her. This child was also taken away from her home at dawn in August 2007, like a criminal, without so much as a chance to say goodbye to her friends and neighbours.We are fighting hard for Meltem to go back home to Doncaster, because that is her home in the truest sense of the word.

The current political situation in Turkey, where Germany will eventually return them to should they be deported to Germany, is such that they face certain persecution because they are Kurds. There is nowhere else for this family to go. Give it another year and Meltem would have had a legal right to stay here because of the seven year rule.

In 2003, I was involved in a campaign for the Ay Family, Kurds fleeing Turkey. The mother and five children were locked up in dungavel removal centre for 1 year until this country saw fit to deport them to Germany. Ironically, the Germans saw fit to grant the Ay family leave to remain on the grounds of the psychological trauma the children suffered in UK detention centres. You would have thought we would have learnt something.

Meltem's story has become something of a cause celebre. You will know that Diane Abbot MP raised the case two days ago, and the Independent newspaper gave the case extensive coverage on November 21, as well as Doncaster based newspapers and radio. Hundreds of emails went to Meltems MP, Rosie Winterton, who replied with template emails to each one saying she could not interfere in the 'legal process'. Hundreds of emails also went yesterday to the Prime Minister and the home secretary. Meltem has gathered more than 1200 supporters.Right now, we are hoping that the NUT will join in pressuring the government on this case. A petition by Doncaster schoolchildren to the Prime Minister is also planned.

All I am saying is, please, please do everything to help this young girl. She's our future lifeblood and might one day do this country proud - if only we would let her.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,
Robina Qureshi


Im One of Meltems friends at school and we are all very upset with what she is going through at this moment, we are going to help her as much as we possibly can, and are going to talk to our head of year and the head-master about the case, asking them to help aswel.
There is no need for Meltem and her mum to be tret like this , what has Meltem done? what exacly has she done! Nothing! so there is no reason for the way she is bieng treated, its disgusting!
Meltem We are all thinking about you and are going to help !
we are also going to write to you!

See also here (scroll down)

And here's a letter from Meltem to YOU!

If you are now feeling distressed, ashamed, angry ...
please check my previous post and ensure your voice is added to those who are appalled that this
attack on the human rights of a child can happen in this country


"I am so happy I think I will burst. This is my best moment ever. I want to say thank you to the children’s commissioner for not forgetting me. He had the kindest eyes ever."


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Raise your voices loud on this one

While we're on about People Power, please take the time to check this site.

The appalling manner in which this government treats refugees - the most vulnerable members of our society - is a subject I've returned to many times.
A post I published in March is still receiving comments.

Meltem Avcil is a 14 year old Kurdish child is desperate need of our support.

The Home Office have now canceled plans to remove 14year old Meltem Avcil and her mother by private plane this morning (NB THIS IS TODAY!) according to the Avcils' lawyers. The costs of deporting the Avcils by plane is believed to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

A high profile campaign to prevent the deportation appears to have won the family some time while the family’s lawyers submit further representations. However, plans appear to be being made to resume removal directions which were previously abandoned on Thursday 15 November 2007. No date has been set for the removal of the family.

Meltem Avcil and her mother were removed from Yarlswood and admitted to Bedford Hospital yesterday, after concerns were raised about her mental state by doctors from Medical Justice. Both remain under close guard despite never having absconded since they arrived in the UK. Meltem’s medical assessment by Medical Justice doctors highlights the psychological trauma she has suffered in Yarlswood detention centre for the past three months.

So do you feel okay about what's happening to this child?
Because it's being done in your name!

Write directly to Prime Minister Gordon Brown to protest at the removal of Meltem Avcil. Email
Write also to the Home Secretary .

Please copy your mail to: and (email for Sir Al Aynsley-Green, children’s commissioner)

Sanity returns?

Remember the soup run debacle I blogged about here and here?
And then again here when it seemed some sanity was being injected in that at least the issue was being debated?

I'm delighted to announce the plan has been shelved.
(Thanks to the anonymous commenter who sent me the link. Is that you, Cheeky Monkey?)

And the lesson?
Poli-trick-ians will always try to sneak controversial measures in when they think no one's looking.

But we're looking.
And we're shouting.
And if we all shout loud enough, it WILL make a difference!

My Cup Runneth Over

My first book, Nirvana Bites, was first published in June 2003, with the mass market paperback coming out 18 months later.

Seems like a long time ago now.

But it's never too late for a fab new review! (See here for earlier reviews.)

The divine Clare Sudbery has posted her wonderful review here on her blog and also here on the Bookarazzi site.

It's a wonderful feeling when you can see a reader has really 'got' your creation ...
... And then goes to the trouble of making sure the world knows about it!

RIP, Real Books

Are books set to go the way of vinyl, cassettes, videos and cameras using film?
I first asked this question here in June 2006.

But things move fast in the digital age and the technology has advanced still further this week with the launch in the US of the Kindle.

There are of course major environmental costs associated with the every stage of the production of Real Books - from the conversion of trees to paper through the printing process, distribution, storage ...

So should we welcome this new development?

There can be no doubt it would make environmental sense.
And at $399 for the reader, books costing a mere $9.99 and 200 books stored on each device (with add-on memory available) it makes financial sense too.

Of course it would be a major blow for booksellers, especially the poor beleaguered indies ... and as for libraries ...

But on the other hand, there's a possibility that lowering the costs of production could reduce the risks for publishers and lead to more books being published.
So you could argue that authors would potentially benefit, especially those writing fiction (so-called 'coffee table' books would presumably still be in demand in their current format).

But ... but ... could the Kindle ever be a substitute for holding a Real Book in your hands?
Stroking the cover ...
Sniffing the pages ...

So, this is my conclusion:
As an environmentalist I say, yes - this is a logical and ecologically sound way to go.
As an author I say I hope it increases the chances for writers to have their work published.

But as a lover of books I say ... well, call me a dinosaur, but if Real Books faced extinction I for one would be weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth.

Please tell me I'm not the only one caught up in this contradiction.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thought made flesh (but not by me luckily)

I had a thought recently.
It was a good thought.
A clever thought.

And this is the thought that I thought:
What South London needs (I thought) is a homegrown version of Book Slam ...

A regular event, combining readings by writers and poets (both published and unpublished) interspersed with live music and a dj.

It would be in a cosy venue, with a small entrance fee, where people could buy drinks.

It would be hip.
It would be cool.
But it would also be warm, friendly, welcoming and utterly unpretentious.

Damn (the thought went) I'm going to have to organise it ...
Where am I going to find the time and energy?

Well, lucky me, cos not only had someone else had the same thought, they'd actually got off their arses and made the thought a reality.

Pipe and Slippers is a quarterly event, running since November 2005.
On Sunday it was held at The Ivy House as part of the Peckham Literary Festival (which I mentioned here) and I was there with G and Meloney.

There was an eclectic mix of performers (check out the amazing Beyonder) but the highlight for me was Marie Philips, fellow Bookarazzi buddy, who read from her bestselling book, Gods Behaving Badly.
The overall standard was very high and the audience appropriately appreciative.

As we sipped our drinks and nibbled on cashews, olives and heart-shaped biscuits, I reflected what a very good thought this had been.
And how very glad I was that someone else thought it before me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Soul food

When you read someone's words and feel they could have been written especially for you, you know that's you're looking at something very special indeed.

This has happened for me many times when I've read Wordcarver's exquisite poems.

So I'm delighted to announce that they are to be published by Opening Chapter.

The cover is beautiful.
The words contained within are guaranteed to haunt, enchant and resonate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Words fail me (and that doesn't happen often)

Rachel has posted about an appalling incident that took place in Leeds the week before Jean Charles de Menezes was killed.

A diabetic man (Nicholas Gaubert) with a low blood sugar (hypoglycemic attack) lost consciousness on a bus.
Armed police were called to the bus depot.
A gun was held to his head.
Luckily (!) unlike Jean Charles the following week, this man was 'only' shot with a Tazer gun - twice.

It was only once he was in the police van that they saw the tag around his neck stating he had diabetes and took him to hospital.

Why has this only come to light now?
Because the Independent (sic) Police Complaints Commission are now handling the investigation after the Crown Prosecution Service has stated that none of the officers involved should be charged with any offense and that no offenses were committed under health and safety laws.

Oh and why did they think this unconscious man slumped on a bus might possibly be such a threat?
They said he looked Egyptian ...

You can see the full story (including a photo) here.

In search of meaning

OK. This is a little odd and I'm not sure what it means - if anything.

Here goes ...

I was tidying the front room earlier and picked up one of First Born's grimy t-shirts ...
... and underneath there was a tarot card!

The Empress.
(This is the exact version.)

Now I do possess an ancient pack of tarot cards, though at this point I don't even know where it is in the flat.
And I have NO IDEA how this particular card got there.

Something similar has happened before when I came across a different (I think) card on the children's bookshelf - again with no idea how it got there.

I know very little about the tarot apart from it having resonances within Kabbalah.
(That's Real Kabbalah - as in Jewish mysticism - not the Hollywood version espoused by the likes of Madonna.)

I Googled The Empress and see words like 'maternal' and 'creative'.
But can anyone help me out here?

What's the significance (assuming there must be some) ...
... of the card itself, as well as the way it suddenly appeared?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Together we are strong


It seems the proposal to ban soup runs for homeless people is not going to slip through unchallenged after all.

If it wasn't for the likes of people like all of YOU being alert, aware and unafraid to challenge, I doubt if anyone would even have noticed until it was too late ....

So a big up to everyone who has made their voices heard -
- especially the members of Cheeky Monkey's car club forum who have not just whinged but have got off their butts and shouted at all the right people.

Over a year ago, and on a completely different subject, I published a post that included this quote from philosopher Edmund Burke:
'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.'

At the end of that post I said this:
I do believe blogging can help, because in the blogosphere we meet people we'd never otherwise encounter. People outside our pack. We can exchange ideas and join debates which, under other circumstances, we wouldn't be exposed to ...
Together we are powerful. Together we can change the world.

Plus ca change ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Street Wise

'You can't explain what war really is to someone who has never been there, just as you can't explain green to a blind person, or a man can't know what it's like to give birth. They simply don't have the necessary sensory organs. You can't explain or understand war - all you can do is experience it.'

This is a quote from One Soldier's War in Chechnya by Arkady Babchenko as featured in the Independent magazine on Saturday.

My experiences of war (when the US invaded Grenada in 1983) are very different, but I do know exactly what he means with this quote.

I would say the same is true for any major traumas - bereavement, for example.
You have to live it to know it.
'Who feels it, knows it,' Bob Marley once sang.

Or what about homelessness?
Anyone who has never been forced to sleep on the streets - fending for themselves, living with the dangers, the isolation, the scorn of those who cannot know - has a unique experience.

Luckily we have the technology to enable the voices of people who are usually dismissed or ignored to be heard.
We may not know how it really feels to live life on the margins, but we no longer have any excuse for not listening when we are told by those who do know.

I posted here about plans to make soup runs for homeless people illegal.

Almost immediately there was a comment.
Someone calling themselves Homeless Chicken responded angrily, assuming I had no experiences in my own life which would enable me to understand the complexities of life on the streets.

It would have been so easy for us to be polarised.
HC could have dismissed me as a patronising liberal do-gooder and I could have taken a smug and superior stance that would have placed each of us firmly on opposite sides of the barricades.

Instead we began a dialogue based on mutual respect.

You see, I wanted to hear what HC had to say and felt it was crucial to hear his or her voice.
I wanted others to hear too and was glad that my blog gave HC a platform for their words.

I don't know this Chicken.
Until recently I didn't even know his or her gender (I now know you are a woman, HC.)
Anyone reading her comments may have had an picture in their mind and I'll bet that image was of a white guy in his 20s or 30s - probably a drug user.

But I posted here last year about Emily - a Jamaican Big Issue seller in her 80s.
There is no homeless stereotype, only homeless PEOPLE.

In case you haven't been following HC's comments on the original post, here are some of the things she has said that we really should be listening to.

HC on survival of the fittest
... the first rule when using soup runs in London,is GRAB NOT,GET this i mean its the strongest who survive,some people get loads of stuff, some nothing at all,there are many times,the run runs out of soup,bread,sandwiches,tea,coffee,clothes,and mentioning clothes, you be surprised the amount of people who grab clothes,only to sell on their market stall the next day,this causes lots of friction,we call them the plastic homeless,they look the the part, but are you say homelessness comes in many shapes and forms, and their are lots of impostors as well. 6.43pm Nov 3rd

HC on donated food

the food which is given out at "HANDOUTS" which are called soup run,s,we see lots of stuff, coming out big supermarkets,surplus,end of sale date,etc..and is given to us free..
Should be a homeless hostel resident,okay housing benefit pays rent etc, but breakfast, dinner, if your lucky,and evening meal you have to pay for out of your benefit noney,there is a organisation called Fairshare, that collects,and delivers, free food as they call it, to hostels,and daycentres we use ... you have to pay for it, its not free! nominal charge its called,explotation i call it,these are so called Charitys for the homeless,Dont give your money to a begger, give it to a charity for the homeless,
Makes you kind of think don,t it
and as a footnote to that im not street begger,or charity fundraiser either,just homeless, but not braindead
6.45pm Nov 4th

HC on staying in touch with your own humanity
At this moment in time,have just left lincon,s inn fields,in central london,Handout at 7.30 [soup run] which was supllied by the Ba Ba people from a temple in Kensington,meal consisted or rice,and chicken stew,a banana,club biscuit,and tea,or coffee from many flasks,very soon afterwards came the Hari Krisna Handout,rice again,and veggie meal,orange juice,there may be one or two more yet to arrive .... the soup runs not only feed people its also a meeting place to keep up with the street politics ... There is a soup run that comes out early every morning to us called the Simon community..tea, sandwiches,and they only go to people people like myself,living on the streets,at least there ain,t no pushing,and shoving,caucse we respect each other,All in the same Boat..

just thoughts during day got lots of time to think,if nothing else. 8.39pm Nov 5th

HC on life
when i started in the b log disscussion i was staying at a freinds place i knew,but he wanted his privacy back,so okay will leave,been on streets before ,do it again,no problem ! wish i could say "Life is a Adventure "depend i think which angle you are looking from, Alice in the Looking Glass?

8.58pm Nov 5th

HC on hostels

many people including myself are around, or living more than one homeless label,in a week... the number of times the comment has been passed to me,"you should be grateful what you get",and this from a paid homeless sector worker,as if they are doing me a big favour, plus within hostels there are quite a few workers who are bullys to people who are a homeless resident in hostel, the reason 2 fold 1. you a not a tennant, you sign a licence when you go into a homeless hostel,which means you sign your rights complain about anything,they have the ultiminate deterent," THERES THE DOOR DONT COME BACK" sorry bit of a rant there, been there got the tee shirt..and dont forget the average hostel in london charges £300 a week, admittitley housing benefit pays this,but there are many services in a hostel,you dont,or may not want to use..
9.02pm Nov 6th

HC on true words
Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty...

only words, but so True!
8.39pm Nov 7th

HC on causes
Root causes,as many and as varied as people,over the years ,that i have been homeless,i have never met two people,who fell into the abyss the same,yes of course we talk to each other,on the streets,we are wearing the same label..but you have to be careful what you say,and the way you say it,if you give away a weakness in yourself,some my use this as a lever against you,self-preseversation thats what it boils down to, can make you very insular,and inward looking,live from moment to moment,day to day,no forward looking or planning..Roots, causes, of homelessness/ can you plan a cure?of a event? before it has even happened..

7.50pm Nov

HC on labels
There some red faces around today,the people like myself, who spent the night "OUT" the red face because of the cold wind,took a while to get moving at 6am this morning... found a sandwich shop that puts its leftovers out just after five,and being friday,there is more than i can eat,so have put bag in a safe place,and share with others later... Issues; labels, labels ,labels where does it stop.There is plenty of crossover,and looking at one issue,means you can miss others more relevant to the person... people on the streets with mental health problems,there are a couple of people i have got to know, NO WAY should they be on the streets..just hope they are found soon by outreach workers ,and helped..which just goes to show Care in the Community,social policy lets down a lot of people,we need more dooers, not talkers,

8.48pm Nov 9th

HC on so-called experts
we are never really asked what we would like,at times this can come across as very,condesending,and patronising,example: They has been many surveys conducted about homelessness,i have been in a couple,was given a five pound reward? for taking part,Classic both times,first question,whats your name,date of bith, its comes across as authority,and we do not need to go down that road do we,

strait away its them and give them lots of false answers,cause they dont know any better,and as a woman on the streets,you have to protect yourself,there is a invisable circle around me, and you "DONT" come inside, unless i invite you... why do i use IT cafe,s, cheap,warm, and best of all,treated the same as anyone else,and most importantly of all allows me to express my thoughts,as a person..being homeless is transitional,not a characteristic
7.44pm Nov 11th

HC on Xmas
start of christmas run up,party on the streets,xmas food laid on, big smiling faces,from volunteers,if your lucky, a director from the charity involved will be there,with a photographer,to get his picture taken for the annual yearly report..

"Life is an adventure
Life is like a good book
There are many chapters
10.12pm Nov 11th

I wish it was possible for you to have your own blog, HC, but grabbing sessions in internet cafes is hard, I know.

Meanwhile I'm more than happy for you to use my blog as a platform to ensure your voice is heard.

Take care, stay safe and I hope there's a bright future waiting for you around the next corner.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Debi and her Dad. Part 8


A big THUMBS UP to:

Dr TG at Barnet Hospital

  • He's seeing dad regularly
  • Transport is arranged automatically each time
  • He's monitoring dad's condition and tweaking his medication accordingly
  • He phones me whenever he has dad with him
  • We discuss progress and agree together on the best way to proceed
  • He listens to what I have to say and treats me with respect so that it's clear we both have the same aims ie what is best for dad
  • He has a gorgeous voice

Dad's crap GP practice

  • Who have excelled themselves in terms of utter crapness. More of this to follow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wonder woman!

Natalie d'Arbeloff who blogs at Blaugustine, is a fellow Bookarazzi bod and is the author of this utterly delicious book whose launch I went to a while back, has some amazing news.

She's won the Mary Stott prize competition, which means she will be ...

... editor of Guardian Women for a week some time next year!

Way to go, Natalie!

I'm a Power Queen

It must be true, cos Minx says so.

It doesn't mean I can change a plug (though I can).
Or that I'm ruler of all that I survey (cos I ain't).

Apparently it means I've been awarded a roar for powerful words.
A pink lion, no less, from the Shameless Lions.

So now I have to come up with 3 things I deem essential for powerful writing:
  1. Trust your instincts - even when your rational self says they're leading in you in a weird direction.
  2. Learn to distinguish between your inner critic and your inner editor. (See here.)
  3. You have to care about what you are creating - write from the heart, not from some idea of what might be commercially viable.
So - now I have to nominate 5 other recipients for a pink roar:

Dina Rabinovitch - whose powerful words will live on even though she's no longer able to acknowledge the award.
Absolute Vanilla - who's never afraid to speak her mind.
Rachel North - an inspiration who's been missed during her recent break from blogging but who is triumph-over-adversity incarnate and is back with an articulate argument on behalf of thinking bloggers and writers everywhere.
Sharon J - ditto re the triumph bit.
Zinnia Cyclamen - who's one of my favourite people at the moment and who gives us a window into the life of a funeral celebrant. And you can't get much more powerful than that, can you?

A Half Life ... A Whole Book ...

I have to admit I was nervous.
'What happens when an average nuclear family is hit by a one megaton bombshell?' it says on the cover.
'What happens when an average blogging author receives a book written by someone she cares about?' I wanted to reply.
'What do I do or say if I don't like it?'

Well thank goodness my fears proved unfounded.
A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge is a taut and chilling story about a man caught in a deadly trap of his own making, set in a vividly-drawn frozen Scottish landscape.

Nick Dowty is depressed, self-pitying and lacking in any ability to empathise with others. His abrupt mood swings launch him from the depths of despair to euphoric heights - often with no justification outside his own twisted mindset.

He's a man who has completely lost touch with all that is truly important - the simple pleasures derived from companionship and shared lives. Instead he has been sucked into a homegrown version of the American dream, where he believes his worth can only be measured in terms of financial wealth, material possessions and the status accorded by running a successful business.

When the dream turns rancid, his world falls apart. He can no longer hear his long-suffering wife when she says they were happiest when they first met and had nothing, but instead is convinced that his ambitions are selfless and revolve around his desire to look after his family.

As he gradually unravels, his desperation leads to the utter disintegration of his moral framework, with appalling results.

I wondered what had happened in Nick's past to lead him to such extremes and was concerned Bill might not give his readers this information, resulting in us having difficulty believing in - or caring about - his main character. I needn't have worried. Bill finally tells us what we need to know in the closing pages of the book - a clever device.

Bill has self-published A Half Life of One - a decision I know he didn't take lightly and which I wholeheartedly support. Therein lies my only real criticism. For a self-published book to be given the serious attention it deserves, the quality has to be on a par with any book published by traditional means.

In other words, there has to be an editing process. Simple errors that would have been picked up by a copy editor or proof reader prevent the book from being the best it could possibly be.

More seriously than the typos and repetitions, there are a few continuity errors (the kidnap victim blowing her nose when her hands are tied behind her back; Nick saying he heard her voice for the first time when she had already spoken several times on the previous page ...) that any decent editor would have picked up on.

This may seem churlish and petty. After all, the major concerns of an editor - plot, characterisation, structure, style - raise no fundamental problems. Maybe that's why I was even more aware of some of these smaller details.

That reservation aside I'm delighted (and relieved!) to say I heartily recommend this book. It is indeed an 'easy but dangerous read' as the cover warns us.

I'd add that Nick Dowty is such a well-written and credible character, and so convincing, that I worry the police may come knocking on Bill's door some day soon!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Somebody loves me ...

I've realised it's been a long time since I posted about what's happening with my own writing.

Truth is, my current book - the 5th in the Nirvana series - has taken longer than any of the others for a complex set of reasons.

What I needed was a boost.
Something to reassure me that I'm not wasting time with my creations.
That there are people out there who care about my characters and want to see more of them.

And - hey - thank you, life, because yesterday I received a wonderful email from fellow blogger and Bookarazzi pal, Zinnia Cyclamen.

I read Nirvana Bites on Wednesday evening, and Trading Tatiana this afternoon. (Er, yes, quick reader.) And now I want to read the next two! I loved them both ... because they're damn good books. I thought the characters were original and delightful. I like the way you don't make heavy weather out of their damagedness, but weave it into the story as and when it's relevant to what's going on, rather than beating the reader over the head with it. I loved some of the cameos like the Rasta guy in Trading Tatiana.

Trading Tatiana seemed, and I hope you don't mind me saying this, more accomplished than Nirvana Bites; more as if you knew what you were about. (Although I did really like Nirvana Bites too, honest - and I love the energy and the humour and the humanity in both books.) And, again, although I learned a lot about human trafficking, I didn't feel as if you were beating me around the head with the Issues, but telling me a very human story.

I really liked the way you made Trading Tatiana a kind of sequel that wasn't entirely a sequel, with a different main character and, initially, a different setting. I was interested to see how you dealt with backstory from Nirvana Bites so that Trading Tatiana could be read as a book in its own right but also worked as a sequel. You made it look easy. I bet it wasn't! But for me as a reader, it worked really well.

So, anyway, thanks for writing them!

Right! I'm on the home run of the 1st draft of The Gene Pool now and it's whispering insistently in my ear again.
Thanks for giving me such a well-timed and motivating kick up the rear, Zinnia!