Democracy Day 20 is today; join the debate

The 20th January 2015 is Democracy Day and marks the 750th anniversary of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster. The BBC is broadcasting a day of live events, discussions and debates about democracy.

It is a shocking fact that 9000 women in the UK do not vote. I have been surprised when some of my female friends say they don’t bother to vote. Emily Pankhurst leader of the British Suffragette  Movement led a sustained and determined campaign to win the vote for women and so it is with great dismay to learn of this high number of women not choosing to exercise their democratic right to vote. I expect Pankhurst would be turning in her grave if she knew her efforts had been partly in vain. And 100 years ago Emily Davison jumped in front of King George v’s horse at Epsom Derby because she believed so strongly in the cause.

And so on this basis it makes me feel quite angry when I hear that some women can’t be bothered to vote. Of course it is their choice. Voting is not compulsory but they are doing the campaigners of the past a massive disservice by not voting. Many tell me ‘what’s the point? Every party is the same. They all a load of rubbish.’ If some women feel like this then it is time to change things. Stand as a local councillor. Start a campaign on an issue you want to change. Our institutions need to be represented by both sexes. The voice of both sexes needs to be heard.


D is for Deirdre a legend lost

One of British’s TV iconic figures has sadly died. Actor Anne Kirkbride just 60 passed away following a short illness and after battling with cancer.

I stopped watching Coronation Street in the year that Eastenders celebrated its’ 20th anniversary because I couldn’t believe that I had wasted so much of my life hooked on soaps. Over time Facebook and domestic chores took the place of soaps in the evening. I don’t know which is worse!

Soap operas served a good purpose for many years in my family. Everyone would watch them and chat about the issues raised and sagas that went on. But now my family are all glued to gadgets and tablets, confined to their bedrooms only emerging to eat. There is no longer a feeling of being part of a family.

As a child my grandparents, both struggling factory workers, living in a 2 up 2 down terraced house near Derby were avid fans of ‘Cora’ or ‘Corrie’ as it was fondly called. My Grandma would fill the room with the smoke of Park Drive, sip a Camp coffee as she watched and the only comments she made were ‘ow arrr me duck’ and she would mouth everything said. My first memory of Deirdre was in the early to mid 1970s. I can remember as clear as day her reaction to her daughter, baby Tracy getting kidnapped from her pram parked outside the Rovers. As a child I hated her huge glasses and wondered why she couldn’t wear small discreet ones! I can recall her husky laugh; a typical smokers laugh.

Corrie will not be the same and will be missed by thousands of fans. Long live this legend in our memories.

D for Death and Detroit: suicide zero plan comes to the UK

The Henry Ford Clinic in Detroit embarked on a programme in 2001 to reduce the incidence of suicide to zero. Rates started to decline and the clinic reports zero rates for the past two years.

The Mersey Care NHS Trust are to pilot this project. In England one death every two hours is due to suicide and ten times that attempt suicide. 75% are men. Rates rise with age. 4700 suicides occur each year in England and figures are rising. Mental health clinicians are clambering for change but in the face of financial difficulties in the NHS the challenges are enormous.

Dr David Fearnley of the Mersey Care Trust head of the project reported on Radio 4 this morning that ‘if the pilot project is successful 2 years we can start to make inroads. It is about redesigning the services, changing the way we approach systems, evaluating evidence. The programme will retrain professionals to spot the signs, educate families to look out for signs, helping GPs to feel confident to ask questions.’

Suicide is often a temporary state of mind.

I have personal experience within my family and network of suicide attempts and first hand experience of our care services has left me with the feeling that inadequate support and help is available. The people who have suffered in my personal world have been plied with prescriptions for prozac and been left on waiting lists for ‘talk therapy’ for months on end; never once receiving a friendly call from their GP to ask how they are feeling; left in the cold to battle their suicidal thoughts. Its a disgrace. There should be a common sense approach and maybe this new project will begin to change attitudes.

In 2012 ‘U Can Cope’ was a film which helped people to overcome suicidal thoughts. Take a look.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health expert but do have personal knowledge.

D is for Democracy

The attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo reveals the range of different views held in the West and within the Islamic world about the right to free expression.

Freedom of expression is a right embedded in our western culture; a right that we have fought for over many years; in wars, in political movements and in campaigns. The foundation of our democracy is that we are deeply committed to defending the right to free speech. Free speech has allowed the press to watch over government and challenge corruption and many politicians have been forced to resign in the wake of extensive media reporting about various wrong doings. The right to free speech is also enshrined in the European Court of Human Rights ruling, 1976.

As a member of Toastmasters International I value my right to free speech and twice a month it is with passion that I stand and voice my opinions in the room in a Lewes pub where the great defender of free speech, Thomas Paine spoke.

However… there is a proviso to all this. A note of caution. It’s great to exercise our right to free speech but to do so we must firstly consider who we might be offending by exercising this right. We have a responsibility as members of a wider society not to upset, provoke and inflame the feelings of others. Humour is one thing but humour is no longer humour if it upsets or offends. I don’t agree with Charlie Hebdo’s further provocation of extreme Muslim groups by publishing a picture of Mohammed (peace be upon him) knowing that it is fundamental to Muslim belief not to show his image and not to show any idols. Go into any mosque in the world and you will not see the image of Muhammed (peace be upon him.)

We may live in a secular world but we must respect the beliefs of different religious communities and consider who we might be upsetting before we publish our thoughts. In the west we have free speech…but only up to a point.

Disclaimer: the above article is based on my personal opinions.

Link to Toastmasters International and to find a local group:

The ABC of Aging; and D is for decline and

ABC’s of Aging

A is for arthritis,

B is for bad back,

C is for the chest pains. Corned Beef? Cardiac?

D is for dental decay and decline,

E is for eyesight–can’t read that top line.

F is for fissures and fluid retention

G is for gas (which I’d rather not mention–

and not to forget other gastrointestinal glitches)

H is high blood pressure

I is for itches, and lots of incisions

J is for joints, that now fail to flex

L is for libido–what happened to sex?

Wait! I forgot about K!

K is for my knees that crack all the time

(But forgive me, I get a few lapses in my

Memory from time to time)

N is for nerve (pinched) and neck (stiff) and neurosis

O is for osteo-for all the bones that crack

P is for prescriptions, that cost a small fortune

Q is for queasiness. Fatal or just the flu?

Give me another pill and I’ll be good as new!

R is for reflux–one meal turns into two

S is for sleepless nights,

counting fears on how to pay my medical bills!

T is for tinnitus–I hear bells in my ears

and the word ‘terminal’ also rings too near

U is for urinary and the difficulties that flow (or not)

V is for vertigo, as life spins by

W is worry, for pains yet unfound

X is for X ray–and what one might find

Y is for year (another one, I’m still alive).

Z is for zest

For surviving the symptoms my body’s deployed,

And keeping twenty-six doctors gainfully employed.



 This poem is not written by me. I came across it somewhere but not sure where!

D is for Diet. Don’t diet in January leave it till June.

The bang of party poppers, the pop of champagne, you swing your arms in a circle to old lang syne. The clock chimes midnight. You should be celebrating. Your head is thumping. Your belly is full of food which has been sitting stagnant in the pit of your belly since Christmas. But you are secretly dreading waking up the next morning knowing that you have committed yourself to the New Years’ diet.

Adverts on TV are a constant reminder for you to honour that commitment. And in the supermarket diet food crowds the end aisles and prices are slashed on diet meals for one 100 calories a meal.

But outside there’s a hard frost. Temperatures are plummeting. You need a thermal vest from Marks and Sparks. And all you really want to do is curl up in front of a log fire with a bowl of treacle pudding and custard.

So do it! In the winter months we need comfort. We need extra calories to help us fight the cold. Leave the diet till the warm summer months when you don’t actually feel like eating so much. It makes much more sense.

Disclaimer: The above blog is based on my own opinions. I am not a health expert.

Some useful links:

What’s inside those trousers these days? The Return of Y Fronts

‘D’ is for down under – down inside those trousers!

Radio 4 reported on the great return of men’s Y Fronts. 2015 is the 80th anniversary of this undergarment for men and apparently there has been a massive surge in sales in the last year. Debenhams are reporting a 35% increase alone and men in Norwich and Ipswich are really embracing Y Fronts as the new preference of undergarments.

For a long time now boxer shorts were the trendy option – and comfortable cool and light to wear, made of cotton and there were a huge range of designs in every shop from practical Marks and Spencer to gift shops along London’s Oxford Street.

Possibly Jack Duckworth of Coronation Street gave the Y Fronts a frumpy bad image with his matching string vests and broken specs and they were seen as the undergarment of old men.

Where can you buy a trendy pair of Y Fronts?

Paying for sex these days is outdated. D is for dogging and it’s growing

Prostitution is the oldest profession; so they say and according to Radio 4 yesterday 1/2 million men a week pay for sex often up to three times a week.

But do they really need to? And surely women have sexual needs too? Those who are against prostitution see it as exploitation against women and many women who are trafficked into this country will end up in the sex trade.

But surely it is time we shed the high moral ground and begin to realise that actually as human beings we do have sexual needs and if we are not in a relationship where do we go to fulfil our sexual urges?

Like it or not there are a growing number of men and women who look for unpaid sex online. Ever heard of dogging? Here is the dictionary definition:

Unlike prostitution dogging is between two or more consenting adults who meet, maybe at a hotel, maybe in a carpark, purely for sexual pleasure. Look on line and you will see plenty of sites where adults meet for this sole purpose. It is a hidden underworld and those who engage in it won’t admit to having done it and we don’t have any statistics regarding its’ prevalence but the fact is it is an alternative to paid sex and means that women as well as men can have their fantasies fulfilled without the pressures of time, money and feeling ashamed either.

These are some links to just a few of the sites you will find on line:

It isn’t for me to say dogging/or swinging is right or wrong and I will not take the moral high ground and neither will I deny that there can be huge safety and health risks involved but the fact remains it will continue to exist and grow and for many adults it works for them and does offer a cheaper, more relaxed way of having sex than prostitution.

Understanding The Defamation Act 2013

* Disclaimer: The following is based on internet research. I am not a legal expert, just an observer.

Authors, journalists, publishers, bloggers can be accused of defamation and there have been significant and extremely costly legal cases. A new law, The Defamation Act 2013 introduces a ‘serious harm’ threshold which may mean fewer cases will come to court by rebalancing the law by providing more effective freedom of speech.

So what is ‘defamation?’ 

Defamation is when you injure a person’s reputation; in legal speak, it’s when you “lower them in the estimation of the community or deter third persons from dealing with them.” It’s a false statement of fact. Only living people can sue for defamation; heirs cannot make a claim about a deceased relative’s reputation.

The allegedly defamed person must prove that he is identifiable to readers by the setting, physical description or other factors. Changing someone’s name and physical description is a good start, but it isn’t necessarily enough to prevent a lawsuit. Truth, however, is always a defense to a defamation charge. As long as you can prove your ex cheated on his taxes, he cannot sustain a defamation claim.

What if you don’t have proof? A defamation claim can be based only on something stated as fact—so, the good news is that your opinions are protected expression. That said, don’t think simply couching your accusation as opinion—“It’s my opinion that John Jones deals drugs,” or, “I believe Sara Smith embezzles from her employer”—is an easy cop out. Any such opinions need to be clearly relevant to your story, and should be supported with viable evidence or reasoning.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you self-publish without sales goals in mind—if your book reaches only, say, a few dozen people—then the bright side is that you probably won’t get sued.

At the front of your book you can include a disclaimer: “This work is loosely based on actual events. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.”

What is The Defamation Act 2013?

Under the Defamation Act, a statement can be said to be defamatory if its publication “caused or is likely to cause serious harm” to individuals’ or businesses’ reputation. However, only if businesses have suffered, or are likely to suffer, “serious financial loss”, can they bring a claim of defamation against commentators by requiring claimants to show actual or probable serious harm (which for-profit bodies is restricted to serious financial loss), before suing for defamation in England or Wales,

The Defamation Act 2013 applies to causes of action occurring after its commencement on 1 January 2014;[5] old libel law will therefore still apply to many 2014 – 2015 defamation cases where the events complained of took place before commencement.

The Act introduces a ‘serious harm’ threshold

This new threshold ‘raises the bar’ for claimants looking to bring a defamation action. Those looking to allege defamation will need to show that a statement has caused or is likely to cause, ‘serious harm’ to the claimant’s reputation. In situations where the claimant is a corporate entity, section 1(2) states that:

harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.”

This does not mean that companies will need to show financial loss at the outset. However, there is a clear move to considering whether serious financial loss is a likely result as a consequence of the statement being made.

The effect of the new ‘serious harm’ threshold is that parties should be dissuaded from bringing trivial actions for comments that have little or no impact on the individual’s/company’s reputation or financial position.




What Do Amazon Rankings Really Mean?

Keep calm carry on writing! Amazon’s rankings are rather like the Stock Exchange; up and down every hour and rather like the Amazon basin – a total mystery! However when you hit the top 100 bestsellers’ listing it certainly gives you a bit of a buzz. And raises your self esteem a few notches.

Today I am 3rd in the humorous dark comedy section next to Hilary Mantel ‘The Assasination of Margaret Thatcher’

I am also 7th in the dysfunctional family relationship section

There has been a lot written about the Amazon rankings and pundits have tried to get inside the mind of how Amazon works. Look at the following useful articles:

Understanding Amazon Rankings — Debunking the Myths

This final article is very interesting:

We authors could get obsessed by the hour by hour rankings in the same way some people share The Financial Times Index. We don’t really understand how they work. We probably never will. All we need to concentrate on is getting our next book written, staying focused on our writing and also trying to get as many good reviews as possible. I think good reviews are the key to success because the ranking possibly don’t mean very much at all.