only connect

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer”

E.M. Forester, Howards End

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to why I volunteer. What am I trying to achieve? What does the charity want to do, and how?

Who gets what out of this- the hours and the energy that nobody pays us for? The work that nobody else sees or cares about. The work and the emotion that has Spurs Fan wondering at times why I don’t just give up.


Connection, story telling, getting stories heard. That works for me. I believe in what I do. It drives me batty sometimes, but my work has value.

Connection is vital to us all. Each of us important and our stories cannot be dismissed. We all have our place in the family of things.

When in doubt, turn to Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

                  Love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

Are moving across the landscapes,

Over the prairies and the deep trees,

The mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

Are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

The world offers itself to your imagination,

Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-

Over and over announcing your place

In the family of things.



madonna/ whore/ martyr

I am pro choice. I have no more right to an opinion on how someone deals with her pregnancy than I have on how anyone deals with their appendix. It’s nothing to do with me. Individuals make choices I wouldn’t all the time (have you seen Geordie Shore?) but that’s being human. My eyebrows may shoot up in disbelief at the make up, clothes and behaviour of the TV folk, but those are their choices. That’s how they choose to survive in the world. My situation is different. I make different choices.


The Geordie Shore people are rewarded for their choices. Encouraged by unreality TV to be highly sexual in their behavoiurs, and to be disrespectful of themselves and others. Some of the characters I’d love to slap, others I just want to hug, but it’s nothing to do with me. I choose differently. I choose not to watch.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, unlike every other jurisdiction in the UK. Our politicians do not support a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy resulting from rape (who knows if it was really rape?) or Fatal Foetal Abnormality (what do doctors know?). In November 2015, the High Court ruled that NI abortion laws were in contravention of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The result is that, just like the Republic of Ireland, we export abortion. Society turns a blind eye to the thousand women each year who travel to Great Britain for medical procedures illegal at in NI. Women who need to find money to get there, time to get away from their commitments at home. No matter how an individual came to the decision about what is right for her, practically, it’s not straightforward.

This week a young woman in this city was prosecuted and sentenced for buying miscarriage inducing drugs on the internet, taking them, and dumping the resultant soiled sanitary products in the bin. We only know this happened because her flatmates reported her to the police. Apparently that wasn’t an anti abortion thing, but because she showed no remorse. (We’ll let you do something we don’t agree with, as long as you are very sorry afterwards and agree that we were right all along.) The woman admitted buying and using the drugs, and now has a criminal record. The judge suspended the sentence, keeping the woman out of jail, and allowed her some privacy by making sure she’s not named. A ‘pro life’ group is hoping to get the sentence appealed, as ‘unduly lenient’.

My mind is boggled by it all. Had this woman lived in another part of the UK, she would have had the procedure without fuss. Had she the resources to travel, she would have had the procedure and nobody would have known. Amnesty International argue that she’s being punished for being poor. An opinion piece in the Guardian highlights some of the other options available to women in this situation.

I made the mistake of reading some of the social media comments on this case. The young woman has been the subject of much outrage and vitriol for having the audacity to have sex if she wasn’t prepared to raise a child. Because that’s how the real world works isn’t it? Nobody ever has heterosexual sex unless they are prepared to be changing nappies 9 months hence. The only reason to be intimate with another is to make a baby. Somebody better have a word with the Geordie Shore people.

By now, I can’t help but feel that this young woman’s situation is being used, again and again. We are in the run up to an election. This case has catalysed discussion. I’m happy that there is a discussion, but I’m deeply uncomfortable as to how it has come about. Like when there was a picture of a drowned refugee toddler, we seem unable to have a conversation unless we can imagine a ‘victim’ (Choose the young woman, the ‘wee baby’, the ‘traumatised’ flatmates as you prefer.)

The Public Prosecution Service decided that this case was in the ‘public interest’. I don’t know how such decisions are made. Hundreds of women have self reported abortions to the police and no action was taken. What’s different about this? Flatmates, elections, High Court decisions? Not content with a successful prosecution, the ‘pro life’ group want a longer sentence as both punishment and deterrent.Is there evidence from anywhere in the world that such a move reduces unwanted pregnancy?

Silly me. That’s not the interest of that group. They’re interested in reducing abortion, not unwanted pregnancy. But, surely, if society worked on the latter in a non judgemental fashion, the former would be reduced anyway?

Maybe I’m missing something.




I just can’t, I just can’t, I just can’t control my life

May 12th is ME Awareness day. Is there anything left for me to say? The regular reader knows that I woke up one day nine years ago and couldn’t move or think or begin to figure out what on earth was wrong with me. A bit of a bug, perhaps? A nasty flu? Flu is horrible.

Weeks turned into months. Months became years, and into the foreseeable distance.  I stopped expecting to back to work on Monday. I stopped hoping to get better. I lost my job, my normality, my future, and I’ve been making it up as I go along ever since.

Limbs of lead, random muscle pains, anxiety, depression, cognitive problems, constant exhaustion, concentration difficulties- years and years of it.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I spend a lot of time in bed, but I’m not bed bound. I can leave the house. Spurs Fan works hard to prevent total squalor and starvation round these parts. Girls keep an eye out for straighteners switched on, pots boiling over. Nobody complains about burnt or undercooked offerings. We are content with a reasonable level of grub and crumple.  I have good friends who ensure I have a social life, however limited. I can volunteer. I have the internet.

ME is not ‘in my head’. Two courses of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the anti mad tablets, and a 12 week Condition Management Programme haven’t cured me. Painkillers, a hot water bottle, a footstool, and a comfy bed are my medications. Even the social security agency accept that I’m not fit to work. Irrespective of my health, they could change their criteria at any time. ‘Control’ over one’s own life is an illusion; if we are lucky we can merely ‘steer’.

I manage by finding ways to make a difference in the world. There’s nothing dramatic about how I volunteer, but it makes me feel useful, and the results help others connect.

I manage by running away to Donegal when I can. My mind is cleared by wind, sea and emptiness. We all come back to ourselves on the beach.

I manage by reading and by exploring the outside world virtually. My current read is An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield. Hadfield is a skilled communicator and storyteller, as well as being the guy who brought us Bowie from space. Although I read plenty of crime and pulp fiction, I like books which make me view my world differently, which make me think, but which are easily read. My brain can’t cope with academic reads; I am the mass market. I like to sing along.

Singing along is a key ME survival technique for me, despite not being able to sing. There are enough can’ts in my world.

I manage by trying to remember who I am. I am me. I am not ME.


For the keen, some previous posts on my ME experience…



preparing to leave

I love being on holiday. Time with no expectations, space to muddle along  and let life just happen.

Preparing to go on holiday, however, is a different thing.

X days = Y outfits.

Is there a washing machine?

Don’t forget the underwear and the pyjamas and the wetsuits and the body boards and the skateboards.

Shampoo, people. And oodles of conditioner.

Of course you need to bring a coat.

Warm things.

Picnic bag.

Did anybody pack the swimsuits?

Doggy bed, doggy food, doggy medicine.


It starts off sensibly and before we know it, there’s no room in the car. Nothing seems superfluous, but there’s only 4 of us. Spurs Fan packs the car. It’s like a 3D jigsaw, a Krypton Factor puzzle. He manages to leave enough room for the last minute make up bag/ hair straighteners/ cuddly toy, but if you want something else bulky, you have to sit on it.

There’s only one thing that keeps him sane in the process. The holiday playlist/ CD/ mixtape.

There’s nothing haphazard about these- they are themed. There’s a Scotland CD, so that we come off the boat to Simple Minds and by the time we get to East Lothian, we can see Sunshine on Leith. We were in Co Clare, so we had west coast songs.



Clare is a beautiful county, busy in the summer months with holiday makers and tour coaches. Narrow roads, wide buses, wrapped up visitors.

Because of our holiday music we ended up doing a little tour guide performance every time we saw a bus. It never got old.

“On the left, we have stone walls. And if you look to your right, you’ll see that the grass is green.”

We are easily amused.