Manchester attacker was a victim of weed according to school friend

A couple of weeks ago the media filmed cannabis Spice users collapsing like zombies on the streets of Manchester. And today we learn that Abedi, the Manchester attacker was, according to a school friend a ‘victim of weed.’ His friend described how Abedi’s smoking of weed over a period of time altered his personality and the move towards radicalisation may have been aggravated by the damaging effects of cannabis on his brain. Over time he became withdrawn, on the edge of friendship circles and lived in a bubble.

Based on my personal knowledge of observing cannabis users I have witnessed a change in the behaviour of those users over a period of time. My reflections and what I went through as a mother are recorded in my novel ‘Every Family Has One.’ wanted to make other parents aware of the dangers of cannabis use.

The cannabis plant contains mind altering chemicals, most notably THC (Tetrahydro cannabinol). THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and there are short and long term effects on the brain. THC acts on specific brain cell receptors. The effects include altered senses, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty thinking and problem solving. Over time users can lose some of their mental abilities and that’s disastrous on their future, a tragic situation. Maybe weed affected Abedi in this way. He dropped out of college. He lost his way academically just like the character in my book ‘Every Family Has One.’

I’m not blaming weed on what happened to Abedi but smoking weed didn’t do him any favours. As parents we worry about our children becoming involved in drugs. I’ve noticed how cannabis affects teenagers. They sleep for long periods in the day, they’re awake all night eating and going up and down the stairs, unable to settle. They cut themselves off from the rest of the family, retreating into their own bubble. Maybe this is what happened to Abedi. He had a good future but it was ruined by alcohol and cannabis.

It’s a mystery and a huge worry for parents today because the THC levels in cannabis are much stronger than decades ago. Teenagers need to focus on study and weed stops them focusing. They become scatty, dreamy and complacent or at the other extreme over anxious.

My book ‘Every Family Has One’ contains some graphic descriptions of the effects of cannabis use and the failure of the professionals and NHS to help parents and help the users. There will be many more young people affected by cannabis if we don’t do something fast.


Going on holiday with defiant teenagers?

Holidays – it’s that time of year again – in just seven weeks the school term ends and six long weeks stretch ahead for your terrible teens. Have you booked a family trip, but instead of looking forward to it you’re filled with dread? Most of the year you don’t actually see your teenagers. They hide in their bedrooms, glued to gadgets, skulk down for mealtimes, if you’re lucky. A holiday will force you to spend time together as a family. And what about your partner? You hardly see him. He works long hours and actually your interests are very different. How you ever got married is a mystery. Or maybe, like me you’re a single parent and invite the ex along, partly for company and partly to take the stress away from dealing with the kids.

How can you ensure your family trip will be one to remember? Firstly don’t let everybody’s annoying habits get to you. If you read my book “Holiday” you’ll smile at all the annoying habits we have to put up with from family members and hopefully not react in the same way that the characters do! Like Lyn in “Holiday” I took my ex on holiday several years ago. Every day he washed his underpants and socks and hung them across the apartment balcony. He insisted on doing all the washing up and when I tried to help he flung the crockery around the room. Like Ray in “Holiday” he has Asperger tendencies. I’m pretty sure of it. It’s hard being on holiday with him! Ray in “Holiday” is based on my ex. My ex had a paddy in the car when the sat nav didn’t know where we were, so he got out and in a rage he jumped up and down on it! It was such a funny moment that I had to put the scene into “Holiday.”

Treat your teens like teens. Encourage them to use their iPhones to research the area, map read, look things up and play music in the car for the whole family to listen to. Agree acceptable screen time. Equally treat them like adults. Order a jug of sangria for the whole family. Let them stay out late, provided you know they will be safe. Set parameters. In “Holiday” Brett, 16 takes cocaine in Las Vegas. How would you cope if your teenager was offered drugs?

As a family you can bond over a meal. But don’t expect your teenagers to want to try exotic dishes like alligator, snails, steak tartare or even a humble paella. They want pizza, pizza and pizza. In “Holiday” Brett says “I’m a fun guy, give me pizza fungi.” There are far too many Mc Donald’s meals in “Holiday” but eating somewhere familiar will help you cope better and avoid any dramatic scenes and one of them storming out or sulking through the meal. It won’t be long before they’re grown up and then you can do what you like. For the moment though holidays need to be tailored to their interests, not yours.

“Holiday” is a funny feel good romantic comedy about a single mum journeying across America with her defiant teenagers and ex partner. It’s largely based on my own experiences. Here’s the link:


Holidays with teenagers

Holidays with teenagers can be a serious challenge making you long for the day when they say ‘Mum, dad I’m too old to go on holiday with you.’ Eventually they will be old enough to go away with friends and holidays will then be a heck of a lot cheaper and you can go anywhere you like!

But for now you’ve got three teenagers; a big age gap and mixed sexes. It’s tough. And of course a limited budget. I tend to prefer taking my teens (I have three) away every other year, because it is expensive and at least then we can do something a bit exciting.

My latest book “Holiday” (Here’s the link: is based on my family’s trip to the American Southwest. I love America and it’s so easy to drive over there. Traveling the states involves many hours in the car and my teenagers did get bored but the landscape is stunning (We covered Wyoming, Utah and Montana) and you can take regular stops for photos and drinks. Teenagers love to take selfies. They’re vain creatures and they also love any food stop. As long as their bellies are continually filled they’re happy. Mine kept moaning for a Taco Bell or a Wendy’s. Hardly glamorous food but cheap and there’s always free wi-fi in these places. I craved small, individual restaurants and cafes with charm and character but I was outvoted most of the time.

British teenagers are easily persuaded when it comes to travel across the States. They’d be happy going to the industrial north, to Pennsylvania, they’d be chuffed to go to sizzling Texas or Virginia even if it looks like England. It’s America! Any place in America is wow for a British teenager!

I booked part of the trip with Thomas Cooke and then I booked motels and day trips on the internet and planned a route from Salt Lake City up to Yellowstone and back. I also wanted the kids to see Las Vegas. They loved it, of course. All that glitz and glamor cannot fail to impress. In “Holiday” you will read about everything we learned on bus tours around the city because I took so many notes. And when I got back I thought this really needs to be written up as a scintillating novel with the background of a romantic story (made up!).

The challenge of Ian Brady’s funeral for professionals

Britain’s most notorious killer has died but the terrible memories of what he and Myra Hindley did, in the 1960s will live with us forever and of course continue to live with the families of their victims who will never recover.

We all have bad thoughts from time to time but most of us mean no harm and recognise that we are not perfect. We try to be better people. But Brady went beyond sin, which can be forgiven. His acts and behaviour we describe as evil. Evil can’t be dissolved. It’s much more distressing and there is a slow journey of acceptance.Brady showed no remorse, he wanted complete control over his victims and their families and despised the authorities. He was an intelligent, well read man.There were no mitigating circumstances to explain his actions, other than his pathological mind.

Brady, I believe should have hung for his horrific crimes but capital punishment was outlawed a decade before the murders. As a result we the public have suffered for decades because justice was not done.

How terrible it must have been for all the social workers, doctors, nurses, prison wardens, canteen staff, solicitors and chaplains to advice him, feed him, talk to him, treat him and care for him. What about their feelings? And what about the funeral director appointed to prepare his body for cremation? How will they feel or will they turn the job down? I have know of funeral directors who have had tyres slashed, their windows smashed and bad publicity because they have worked with the families of murderers. Over thirty funeral directors turned down Myra Hindley’s funeral because they didn’t want her travelling in their hearse. The cremator had to be switched off and completely swept down afterwards to insure no contamination of ashes.

I am a funeral celebrant and I had an interesting discussion with fellow celebrants about whether we would take his funeral service if we were asked. Opinion was divided. One celebrant said that if she was paid a huge sum she would do it. Business is business and lawyers certainly don’t turn down a well paid case; they simply weigh up the overall gain. And where do we, as professionals draw the line between one criminal and the next? The difference in Brady’s case is that he was the most evil of killers. But there again murder is murder, surely? Or could it be that some murderers and child molesters have just lost their way? Hope is always a possibility for all but not in Brady’s case.

Some celebrants felt that with carefully chosen words they could give a peaceful closure to his family and this could be very powerful and being able to give his family some peace of mind would be a huge privilege – assuming they do not revere him in any way. We mainly felt that it would be a service for a religious minister rather than a celebrant, with talk about forgiveness, sin and evil and passing him over to God for judgement or forgiveness. Celebrants, in contrast celebrate life. This is our role. What is there to celebrate in Brady’s case? I guess we could talk about Brady’s early life and how his mother loved him and cared for him. At the end of the day we are all born equal, we are all human.

In the main our celebrants felt that he didn’t deserve the privilege of a funeral and that his body should be taken to the crematorium early in the morning and disposed of.

Luckily this discussion is only hypothetical. Brady had no close family alive or willing to admit being related to him and so there will be no funeral, I assume. But the discussion presents a huge challenge to us as celebrants. Our role is to celebrate life. We look for the positive in every life, however much hurt the deceased might have inflicted on others. How do we celebrate the life of a man who had committed such evil and showed no remorse? It’s a tricky one!

I am a funeral celebrant working in West Sussex. Here’s a link to my website: