The Brexit Betrayal

On the day that we were supposed to leave the EU, they came in their droves from all corners of the country, congregating outside the seat of power that they entrusted their faith in to deliver the wishes of 17.4 million people. They came with their Union Jacks, fluttering in the light breeze, they carried a coffin labeled democracy and the liberty bell tolled.

It didn’t matter who we were, whether we were on the Left or on the Right, we were united in our ambition for a better Britain, a Britain free from the clutches of the EU. We were angry because our ambition has been destroyed by a treacherous government bent on destroying democracy. Our Remain Parliament are not for the people. They have plotted to destroy Brexit. In Mark Francois’ words, ‘what part of no Prime Minister, don’t you understand?’

The crowds were electric. Weaving my way through the crowds I heard all sorts of fiery conversations and rants. Every conversation was emotive although there were plenty simply enjoying a day out in the sun with a picnic. It was clear that we all felt the same. One man pointed his finger at Parliament and shouted, ‘make a decision you idiots.’ Somebody shouted through a loudspeaker, She’s a liar, she told us we were getting out.’ Between gulps of beer a toothless man from Essex shouted, ‘The people with money aren’t interested in the likes of us. Why did they bother to give us a vote?’

‘This is the one time people get off their arses,’ said a Welshman with a dragon tattoed across his fat leg, ‘and they take no notice.’ ‘Remainers are full of shit,’ shouted another man.

The event felt about much more than just Brexit. Our democracy is in trouble. There were ripples of revolutionary rumblings from the crowd. There was revolutionary fever in the air, from the Communists to the Far Right. This was about the ordinary people pitted against the elite, anger that democracy has collapsed. One speaker read Cromwell’s speech so relevant today. In the words of Kate Hoey MP at the event, ‘this evening we celebrate a fight back. ‘We are howling with rage,’ said Clare Fox, ‘we’ve been trampled on as if we do not matter.’ The crowds were dynamic and one woman   shouted towards Parliament, ‘Parliament is a cesspit, not a chamber.’

We have been called all sorts of names as Mark Francois said, from Nazis to vermin. I won’t deny that there weren’t nasty thugs from the Far Right in the crowds. I came across a horrible placard with a caption, ‘Fuck Islam,’ and shouting, ‘we’ll have a fucking Muslim in power soon and they’ll be building mosques everywhere and the call to prayer will blast from Big Ben.’ Thankfully these nasty elements were in the minority but sadly they give us a bad name.

There are lots of remainers, as one speaker said, who respect the outcome of the referendum but thousands who don’t and they are not democrats. They want a second referendum because they are poor losers and think they know best.

May is a traitor but Farage has also betrayed us. He walked away after the Referendum. We needed him to see the process through. I shouted in his direction as he spoke. ‘You fucking walked away. Come back and finish the job.’

Our battle to be heard will go on. We won the referendum. May is a liar, she told us Brexit means Brexit. We should have left today. We will not go away. We will not be slammed down. Our MPs don’t listen to their voters and should be sacked.

A dry holiday to Oman

Back from a Traveleyes holiday to Oman and feeling groggy and disorientated with post-holiday blues I bumped into a friend in the Cafe Nero. ‘Back from your travels then?’ She asked. Reaching for a napkin as I ordered my coffee, she added with a wink, ‘Didn’t get kidnapped then? You don’t half go to some funny places.’ A couple of people in the queue turned to stare at me. From the look on their faces, they could easily be forgiven for thinking I’d been to Caracas or Raqqa rather than to one of the safest countries in the Middle East, where different nationalities live peacefully side by side and religion shapes the daily rhythm of life.

Arriving over an arid, sun-drenched landscape into a very modern and clean airport we were greeted by our friendly Omani tour guide, dressed in a pristine long Persil white tunic, called a dishdasher, sandals and colourful turban, the standard dress of Omani men.

‘What a lovely airport,’ I told him. The floor was polished marble and there were artificial palm trees lining our route to the exit where a couple of workers were watering a living wall, the largest across the Gulf countries growing 13 different plant species and 24,000 different plants. I could see that the guide was proud of the airport. ‘The terminal opened last year. There’s a big push to drive more tourists to Oman, but not on the huge scale of Dubai,’ he chuckled.

Before we left the airport our English guide halted outside the Duty-Free, warning us that this was our last chance to purchase alcohol and that it would be very difficult to find alcoholic drinks in Oman. ‘Does anybody want to buy any before we head off?’ She asked. Weary from our night flight and not quite believing her, there were no takers. One of our travellers had come prepared though, a sneaky bottle of whiskey stowed in his luggage and discovering his secret bottle one day I helped myself to a nip. It felt as if he was carrying contraband goods and I felt like a naughty school girl. ‘If they want to loosen us up,’ he declared, ‘they need to liquor us up.’ And another traveller commented, ‘We won’t be painting the town red, we’ll be painting it beige.’ The lack of alcohol became the butt of jokes over the week but I don’t think anybody really missed it, especially after trying the delicious mint lemon cold drink served at every cafe and restaurant and Arabian coffee (with added cardomon) with dates at every meal, helping us to forget the lack of wine and spirits. It certainly didn’t stop us laughing and having a good time.

I wouldn’t recommend Oman as a destination if you’re somebody that likes to get pissed. And even if you ventured into one of the few 5-star hotels that do serve it, the prices might stop you getting bladdered. And I got the distinct impression that rowdy, drink-fuelled behaviour would be frowned upon. Muscat was a civilised, gentile sort of city, unlike Brighton or Southend on a Saturday night. Maybe I’m getting old and boring but I preferred the quieter, drink free atmosphere of Muscat. You felt much safer.

Thank you for reading and there will be more Oman blogs in the coming days.

 

Why I’m going to Oman and what the country has to offer.

As constitutional lawyers pour over this latest Brexit deal I’ll be joining the Emirates queue at Gatwick. I’m looking forward to jetting off into the sun for a relaxing holiday having just finished my latest novel and before embarking on a sequel to ‘Every Mother’s Fear.’

Except that I don’t do relaxing. For me lying on a beach, staring at the sun, only to breed wrinkles is boring. I can do that in Brighton or Bognor on a sunny summer day. I’m enticed by the lure of adventure and discovery and meeting inspiring people. Last year I went to Cuba with a travel company called Traveleyes and when they posted a holiday to Oman I immediately signed up.  Traveleye tours are a mixture of sighted and blind travellers. The sighted travellers guide and share their holiday experience with their blind companions. It’s a wonderful experience to share your holiday with people with sight problems because we can share our unique experience. They are good at pointing out things I wouldn’t maybe notice like smells and sounds and I describe what I’m looking at.

My destination – Oman wouldn’t be top of the list for most people, particularly because people think it’s a dangerous place to visit, but it’s actually one of the safest Middle Eastern countries, despite its volatile location next to Yemen, embroiled in civil war and there are tensions between Oman and Saudi Arabia. ‘Why are you going there?’ Friends have asked. So I thought I’d write a blog about why I’m going to such an unusual destination.

I love the Middle East and visited Jordan and Dubai several years back and I’m off to Isreal later in the year. I really wanted to visit either Oman or Iran. I love waking up to the haunting call to prayer, its soft melody and the way religion defines the day, as people stop, get out their prayer mats by the roadside, raising their arms to the sky in such a deeply meaningful way. It’s raw, moving and has a profound effect on me spiritually, in a way that church bells don’t. Whatever you think about the politics of Islam they are still praying to the same God. The sound of donkeys braying in the hills is another haunting sound.

Oman is a country of deserts and picturesque villages in the mountains and has a tiny population of just 4 million. Muscat, the capital looks like most peoples’ idea of a modern county, with shopping malls selling consumer goods but outside the towns, the country is steeped in history and the landscape is stunning.  Tradition is woven through every aspect of life in Oman. For instance, it’s not unusual to marry your first cousin and marriage is arranged when a child is born and there’s a strong belief in ‘jinn’ which are evil spirits. Men are known by their first name and the name of their father or their son.

The country had no real infrastructure before 1970 but when the current ruler, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said came to power in 1970, he embarked on modernising the country with a series of reforms and he pumped money into education, health and welfare. The sultan has absolute power and rules by decree. He rules unchallenged, political parties are banned and Sharia Law means that certain crimes are dealt with very harshly. In the extreme, homosexuals can receive the death penalty for instance. I’d better be careful and not do my usual journalist thing of asking locals too many questions and taking risky photographs!

I’m fascinated by Oman’s history. This is the land of the Queen of Sheba, although there’s no hard evidence to support her existence. Since the 1940s Oman’s wealth has grown from its oil reserves but for centuries Oman was important for its frankincense and myrrh. Almost all frankincense comes from Western Oman. Frank means noble. Frankincense is a gum resin that comes from the Boswellia tree and they grow in abundance in certain areas of Oman. They like harsh climates and can even grow out of solid rock. Frankincense was in demand, the world over for religious ceremonies and as an embalming material as well as treating numerous ailments. Omani frankincense was even found in Tutankhamon’s tomb. Camel caravans travelled thousands of miles transporting this valuable commodity.

I’m not particularly into wildlife myself, but for those who do there’s the chance of seeing leopards, hyenas, vultures, turtles, humpback whales and oryx in Oman.

I’ll be back soon with an update on how I get on! Thank you for reading. Here’s a link to a great book I read about Oman: https://www.amazon.co.uk/OMAN-Under-Arabian-Skies-Unabridged-ebook/dp/B007ZT4BQS/

Gambling Recovery Programmes

Gambling Broke Us by Joanna Warrington book coverDating a compulsive gambler I went on to write a novel ‘Gambling Broke Us’ and this drew me to the shocking headlines splashed across British newspapers in recent months–Gambling On The Increase. But what help is out there for recovering gamblers and what is the success rate?

Gambling recovery programmes are woefully lacking and very patchy across the country and shockingly–given that there are well in excess of 400,000 compulsive gamblers in the UK–the NHS has only one specialist gambling clinic, which is in London. Around 15 problem gamblers are referred to the clinic every week, from around the country. The biggest problem is that by the time the clinic sees them they have lost their jobs, homes and relationships. They join a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy programme, talk about their problem and are given strategies to avoid temptation. Six months later about 60% of gamblers have managed to stay away from gambling. If there was a specialist clinic in every town think what progress could be made.

The clinic has been trialing a craving suppressant drug called naltrexone. Maybe this is the way forward but we all know how reluctant the NHS is to take on new drugs, given the cost involved. This drug is seen as a last resort treatment. If the clinic’s trial is successful she wants the NHS to fund a clinical trial.

Is this drug the new breakthrough to tackle this nasty illness that blights so many lives or is the problem much more complex? My gripping new novel “Gambling Broke Us”available on Amazon will give you a good insight into this terrible addiction.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jun/06/gambling-secret-addiction-ruins-lives

Gambling is in the news again

Gambling is in the news again and because I’ve just published a novel about a gambler, I’m interested in what’s going on. From April 1st rules around gambling ads in the UK, including a ban on the use of young celebrities and sports stars, will become stricter, especially online. Gambling operators will also have to ensure that the majority of the audience of any social media influencers they work with are over 18. This is to protect children from irresponsible ads in the light of a recent study suggesting that 450,000 11 to 16-year-olds regularly gamble.

When I told people I was writing a novel about a compulsive gambler reaction was mixed. Most people tutted and said, ‘they only have themselves to blame.’ I found little sympathy for gamblers, most of us can’t understand why somebody would want to pour money down the drain leaving themselves unable to buy food or pay rent. Worse than that were the parents struggling with teenage gamblers. The pain was etched across their faces. These were friends of mine and I had no idea about what they were going through as parents. Flummoxed as to what to do, this made me more determined than ever to bring this problem to the forefront of peoples’ minds through my novel. Most people seem to have an alcoholic in their family or friendship circle, but do you know somebody with a gambling addiction? We all know somebody who likes a flutter, but until a couple of years ago, when I began dating a compulsive gambler, I can honestly say that I had never met a compulsive gambler. Maybe I’ve led a very sheltered life or just mixed in different circles, but it just wasn’t something I’d given much thought to, despite it being all around us. You only have to read about the shutdown of Britain’s racetracks due to equine flu to see the importance of horseracing to the betting industry, because the damage has run into millions. Gambling, whether we like it or not is important to the economy, but sadly it blights lives. But with just one NHS clinic in the UK for problem gambling and an archaic 12 step programme run through Gamblers Anonymous that hasn’t been revised in decades, there’s little hope of us tackling this growing problem any time soon.

I hope that my new novel stirs something inside you. The story is fictional but the addiction is not. The dreadful highs and lows experienced by problem gamblers is based on one man’s tangled and complex emotions, the guy I dated – emotions which are typical of gamblers.

I hope you enjoy my new novel which is on Amazon:

Make Climate Change your New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year again. With Christmas out of the way we start to think about how we can change our lives in the year ahead and that involves making a list of resolutions. Somewhere in that list will be a diet plan, but diets are hopeless because we live in the western world where food is sugar and fat rich. There are too many temptations for us to stick to a diet.

Instead of dieting or cutting back on alcohol why not make climate goals your New Year’s Resolution? Climate change is upon us: a huge region of the Antarctic ice cap is breaking apart and melting. The Paris Climate Change talks set goals to limit the world’s temperature but this won’t happen unless we all play a part. Here’s what you can do. Make climate change your New Year’s Resolution!

  1. Stop wasting food. Buy only what you need. Walk to the supermarket if you can. Buy food grown locally when you can. That includes wine!
  2. We are wearing clothes for half the amount of time that we used to a decade ago, according to research quoted on Radio 4. Look through your wardrobe before you buy new clothes. Think twice before you throw clothes away. Mass produced fashion moves so fast these days, that a piece of clothing bought today is discarded several months later. Think before you throw away clothes. Don’t be a sucker for fashion. The fashion industry is a major source of the greenhouse gases – read this article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/45756754
  3. Change your eating habits. Become a vegetarian or at best give up red meat. This is the best thing you can do to help the environment.If you are not convinced, read this article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth
  4. One shower a day is enough. And don’t take so long in the shower! Two minutes is long enough.
  5. Reduce the temperature on your boiler. Wear a jumper inside instead of putting the thermostat up.
  6. Use ecological domestic products. Change your washing powders and washing up liquid to environmentally friendly ones.
  7. Think before you drive. Each journey is bad for the environment. Think before you get in the car. Use the train. Walk to the pub or school. Move to the town so that you don’t need your car. Buy a small car. And please drivers, don’t let your engine run for ages while you defrost the windows. Scrape the windows instead or pour tepid kettle water on the windscreen.
  8. Stop using a tumble dryer. Dry clothes outside. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/nov/25/carbon-footprint-load-laundry
  9. Stop using a dishwasher. Get the kids to wash up instead. A survey by The Daily Telegraph motoring section revealed that one cycle of a kitchen dishwasher releases about 765g of CO2 – more than double that produced by a short drive in the Range Rover Turbo Diesel, which releases 299g per kilometre.
  10. Don’t drive to a gym. Exercise at home instead in front of a You Tube exercise tutorial or go for a run.

Gambling machines are highly addictive

Yesterday as Sports Minister Tracey Crouch handed in her resignation, putting her principles over the government’s delays to a crack down on maximum stakes for fixed odds betting machines I trawled Brighton’s betting shops with a gambling addict because gambling is the theme of my next novel. Tracey Crouch lobbied for the change to be made earlier than the planned date of October 2019 and quit after ministers refused to budge.

The maximum stake is currently £100. It’s possible to gamble away £100 in just 20 seconds. I played on the machines but I was careful not to put in more than a tenner. I came home feeling energised by the lure of the sounds, the roll of the white ball as it skittles around the roulette wheel. I don’t have an addictive nature but I can see why so many are addicted. They have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of betting machines because they are highly addictive. This stake will be cut to £2, but not until next October. It should happen now, a year away is a disgusting delay when you consider the misery these machines are inflicting on thousands of people up and down the country. Betting shops are only allowed to have four of these terminals per shop and because of this betting shops have sprung up on virtually every shopping street across Britain in the past few years. The betting companies argue that the reduced stake will lead to thousands of job losses. Quite possibly, but this is a brutal industry with little concern for the plight of the punter who leaves their establishment with no money left to put food on the table, no money for Christmas presents for the kids, risking the roof over their heads, pouring benefit money into those evil machines. And it suits the government to delay the implementation of the reduced stake because of the millions it scoops in tax revenue from these machines. The reduced stake will leave a gaping hole in the budget, denying money to vital services.

I had a relationship with a man who was addicted to these machines. These machines have nearly destroyed his life. He’s been homeless, he’s gambled rent money and he’s nearly taken his life. Something needs to be done now, not in a years’ time. These machines are gas guzzlers and a very different experience to the other forms of gambling found in a betting shop where there is an element of delay involved, such as betting on the horses or a football machine.

My novel is due to come out in the Spring and will highlight in Ken Loach style the explosion of gambling in the UK and what it’s doing to families and individuals. We must do more to address this addiction on so many levels. It has to be taken as seriously as drugs and alcohol addiction. I hope my new novel will get you thinking…

Cliff Richard’s 60th anniversary tour

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Yesterday wasn’t going well. A friend cancelled an evening out with half an hour notice. I sat glum into my Waitrose cuppa, watching the trains go by, feeling let down again. And so when the phone call came asking me to take my thalidomide lady to the Brighton Centre to see Cliff Richard I smiled. Every cloud has a silver lining. If the phone call had come twenty minutes earlier I would have said no and missed another opportunity of seeing Cliff, because the first time around, when I was 10, he came to my primary school but I was off school that day with a sick bug. Not that I was fussed. Cliff Richard has always epitomised the very drab, the very vanilla of the music industry and is most definitely for old fogeys, Mr One Hundred Tunes of Bland Shite, so I thought, along with the likes of singers like Jason Donovan and Daniel O’Connell. But with my advancing age, now over fifty, I guess I’ve reached old fogey territory and actually I revise my long standing opinion of Cliff – he was in fact bloody fantastic!

What an amazing guy Cliff Richard is. This year he celebrates an incredible 60 years in the music industry, an accolade few can claim. He brought tears to my eyes, there’s almost something God given, something divine about a guy who still manages to storm the stage, from one city to the next at the grand age of 78. At that age my dad had a walking stick, varicose veins and heart problems.

You really wouldn’t guess Cliff’s years. He has the body and energy of a twenty year old, the face of a forty year old and the passion of a thirty something. He’s slim, dresses like a teenager. I loved his glittery trainers and tight black trousers. Very sexy for an old man! With an upward audience of sixty plus, mostly ladies, the blue rinse brigade dressed in comfy cardies, I found myself swaying in the aisles with them, soaking up this wonderful Christmasy atmosphere. Cliff has a way of making you feel good and in his words ‘I earn my living making ladies smile.’

Between songs he engaged with the audience telling stories about his life. He told us he’d recently travelled on London underground. ‘Paul McCartney went on the tube. And do you know how he got away with it? A woman on the train said I know who you are. Who am I? Paul replied. Paul McCartney. No way, Paul replied. Paul McCartney would never travel on the tube. So I did the same and a lady on the train said I know who you are. You’re Cliff Richard. No,I replied, I would never go on the tube.’

As incredible as Cliff was, so were the audience. We sat with several disabled people and one lady, wizened, probably in her 80s, in a wheelchair had travelled from the north by herself to see him and afterwards was staying in a hotel. She had booked every single one of Cliff’s concerts. How amazing is that? A real die-hard for you.

And now I shall be heading over to Amazon to buy his new album, ‘Rise Up,’ the title chosen because after the bad times of his life he’s risen up. What is his secret I wonder? Maybe it’s the impact of his Christian faith that keeps him going. Unlike many singers he’s not succumbed to drugs and alcohol, he leads a pure life, finding energy and faith within himself, a spirit that keeps him going.

Thank you for reading.

Loneliness and the lonely stages of our lives


The topic of loneliness is now receiving a great deal of attention and political prominence. The BBC has just published the findings of its survey into loneliness, the biggest of its kind to date.

Loneliness is the big scourge of modern life. Throughout my life I’ve felt desperately lonely. My candour on this fact makes me cringe. We aren’t supposed to be lonely. It suggests we are social misfits, weirdos and it’s embarrassing for us to admit how we feel. I used to think that it was mild depression and that’s the label I gave to my emotions but in recent months, as more commentators discuss the growing phenomenon I’ve come to realise that it’s loneliness not depression. There have been pockets of my life when these feelings have been intense. Growing up my parents had a poor marriage and were so consumed with their own problems that they argued a great deal. They were also focused on earning shed loads of money and didn’t come to my sporting events and we didn’t go out as a family much. Family life was isolating and my sister was always out with her friends. University life was lonely. That is the subject of my earlier blog. In my late twenties I married and had children. My husband worked abroad while the children were young. When he returned at weekends he was more interested in going to the pub than spending time with us. I made lots of friends when the children were little and there were coffee mornings and lunches out and toddler groups but when I was alone again the emotions kicked in and I felt desperately isolated. And when my marriage broke down I spent the next years in and out of relationships which created it’s own issues. My life was no longer stable. I couldn’t rely on any of these men and they all had their own issues to contend with. Internet dating is how many of us find partners these days but it’s a cold and soulless way to meet somebody and we are judged on how good our photos are. Internet dating brings its own loneliness into the mix.

There were incredibly happy moments during relationships and I think for me the least lonely time is when you are physically intimate with another person as long as it’s with the person you love. Sex has a wonderful way of sweeping away loneliness. Physical touch, cuddling, kissing, waking up to another person and the heights of pleasure bring joy and happiness – but remove all of that and the loneliness kicks in once again. They say that it’s better to be in a bad marriage than to be alone and I can certainly identify with that theory.

Thank you for reading. You may like my book ‘Holiday’ which highlights relationship problems and loneliness. Here is the link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HOLIDAY-Laugh-out-loud-romantic-travel-comedy-ebook/dp/B01MXYJJ3V/

Thank you for

The loneliest years of our lives

BBC Radio 4 has just announced the results of The Loneliness Experiment, a nationwide survey into loneliness. It’s the largest survey into loneliness and the results show that the age group 16 to 24 are the loneliest group. You may find this surprising. Let’s pick through the possible reasons for this.

Social media instantly springs to mind. Young people don’t seem to hang out with friends anymore, in each other’s bedrooms or in the local park. There is less face to face contact. They connect with friends via their phone screen instead, whether this is through Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. My own kids don’t sit down to watch soap operas with the family like we did when we were growing up and they are often so busy with activities that family meals aren’t possible. They remove themselves from the family area downstair and hide away in their bedrooms. My book ‘Every Family Has One’ addressed loneliness issues among teens and among the parents dealing with their depressed teens.

Loneliness isn’t something we freely admit to. There’s a social stigma attached to it. And young people I can imagine are least likely to admit to feeling lonely because at that age it’s all about popularity, how many friends you have on Snapchat and how many people are following you on Instagram. Young people scrutinise the photos of their peers. ‘He’s having an amazing time in Australia,’ ‘She looks happy with her twenty friends on the beach.’ A picture though only tells what the person wants you to see. A different story lurks behind those happy faces. To be lonely is weird. It’s embarrassing. You’re labelled a social misfit and nobody wants to be that. And so the natural tendency is to hide these feelings. But we’re human and being human means that we cannot always feel on top of the world. We will go through lonely patches. It’s inevitable no matter how much we go out or how many friends we have and whether we are in a romantic relationship or not.

The loneliest time of my life were the university years. I studied 300 miles from home and missed by mum and the friends I’d made in my home town and the social life I had. I tried everything I possibly could to adapt to university life but the sad truth was I couldn’t wait to graduate. Returning to Lancaster University several years ago, on route to the Lake District brought it all back to me. Walking round the campus sent a chill through me. I could have been returning to a prison after freedom. The emotions that shot through me were the same.

The only way to beat loneliness is to get out there and mix as much as you can, engaging with others face to face but when that doesn’t work the only thing is to accept that so many of us are lonely – it really is a natural state of being a human.

‘Every Family Has One’ is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/EVERY-FAMILY-HAS-ONE-heartbreaking-ebook/dp/B015RUZL7Y/