Tuesday, 22 December 2015



We waited for you with bated breath, your mother struggled so much to bring you into this mad, crazy world.

And here you are, your first year on Earth over.

May you be blessed all the days of your life, and know that you bring so much love and joy to a jaded world.  Grow strong, stay true, and learn that kindness always wins.  Always.  

You will meet many people in your life - some will stay forever, some will flicker in and out, and others, well, those you just need to let go, because you will meet the good, the bad, and the 
awfully ugly.  

Keep the ones that love you with honesty, that honour you and respect you.  Mind them, they are precious jewels.  Hold them close.

The arrogant, the begrudgers, the ugly-of-heart, the vengeful, the nasty, the spiteful, and the false - those you discard as you would dirt on your shoe, for they are primitive Neanderthals that have not yet developed, and to associate with them is to dim your own shine.  Bury them. 

My wish for you is great joy, a lifetime of good health, and many years to enjoy your parents, your family, and your friends.

Happy 1st Birthday, little one.

With great pride, I sign thus:

With all my love,

Saturday, 12 December 2015


"And I will sail my vessel
Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
Til the river runs dry"

Babies learning to speak is very cute.  Hearing the first words are memories that stay with us forever, and we clap our hands with glee when we hear mama or dada for the first time;  so we encourage more, we show and say: ball, book, baby... and as the infant grows, learns and develops, in time we move onto new challenges for them, new things for them to conquer when we become accustomed to the fact that they are now well on the way to mastering the art of speech. 

If we took one second to think about that immense and powerful achievement, learning those collective sounds and intonations that allows us to impart our needs, fears, desires to a fellow human being, to be able to express emotions, we would indeed take a breath and realise the incredible gift that language is. 

The poet Elizabeth Bishop once said: 
"The art of losing isn't hard to master, 
so many things seem intent to be lost, 
that their loss is no disaster."

I disagree with Elizabeth Bishop.  I love words.  I am defined by my words. I love they way they taste, the way they cling together in clusters to evoke happiness and joy, or how they collide and bash against each other when we are hurt or angry. I love the musical sounds they make, and how each person's song of speech differs depending on how they choose to string together the notes of their sentences.  How words can be splashed down on a sheet of paper to create a beautiful landscape, or a torrential storm, and transport you into another's world, another's perception. They are powerful.  And command great respect. 

So, what would it mean to lose them if we were to be cast down in time by dementia or Alzheimers? To be forever confined to the small recesses of our own mind, unable to grasp at the words that flick tantalisingly in front of our mouths, yet our tongues remain stagnant behind closed lips?  I cannot imagine a world where I would not know words.  I cannot imagine a world of silence.

We have to learn to master many things in our lifetime.  From infancy and those first few words, we master steps which allow us to walk, we master our hands to tie those laces, button those shirts.  We later learn to write those words we now know so well, and we master the art of communication, of mathematics, of science.  We learn how to use computers, we learn to cook so that we might create food to delight the palate, and which unites us with family and friends.  A lifetime of memories slowly being collated frame by frame, so that in its entirety we become the essence of ourselves. 

Dimentia is a terrible disease.  It does not define who we are, but it creeps in thief-like in the night without our consent; begins to stalk us in the shadows of our mind, stealing tiny little fragments that at first we do not notice.  We misplace our keys.  We find our phones in the cupboard.  Silly us.  How did that get there?  We begin to lose our bearings, forget where we are.  We lose objects.  We lose the gift of peaceful sleep.  And slowly, over time, we begin to lose the most precious thing of all : our memories.

We lose the memory of us.

Like all things, nothing comes a sudden.  It permeates the edges first, not wanting to be seen, lurking in the corners - enough to draw our attention, yet hardly noticeable, perhaps onset of menopause in women belies the first signs of forgetfulness, the blame quickly and gratefully laid at the door of hormonal changes.  Quite normal.

With memory-impairment, we have to begin learning all over again, just as we did as an infant.  Except now we are no longer learning the skills needed to walk, run, drive a car, study for an exam, cook, nurture a family, or climb the career ladder.  We are no longer striving for the future, or dreaming about things to come.  Instead now, we try to stay present, lucid, in the very moment in which we stand. 

Everything we once were, everything we have become, is being diminished and torn away, until we are nothing more than a whisper in a world of noise.  Strange behaviour and garbled sentences alienates us from our loved ones, and in our darkness we become comical to those in the light. 

We are not suffering.  There is no pain.  Instead, we are struggling to be a part of things, to remain connected to who we once were.

Now we have a new skill to master.  The skill of learning how not to forget.

Of not forgetting the words for everyday items.  Of not forgetting how to brush our teeth.  Of not forgetting that the person sitting next to us is our husband of 65 years.  That the person in front of us is our daughter, or son.  Some things remain conditioned and are automatic, especially when the disease is still hanging back in the shadows.  But others dance momentarily in front of us before slipping quietly away, leaving us dumbfounded.  What is that word?  Where has it gone?  What were we trying to say?

However, more frightening than that, is the pain and devastation bestowed upon family members watching us fade....  Imagine not knowing our own?  Imagine not knowing those we love. 

Language has been such a large part of my life for so long, that probably one of my greatest fears is no longer having access to my words. Be grateful for the gift of cognisance, of good mental well-being, of the truly remarkable gift of speech and all that you can achieve with it. 

Sprinkle those words wisely;  use them to build up rather than tear down, spread kindness, not cruelty.  Tell people you love them, whilst you still have the choice to do so.

I shall keep sailing my vessel, til the river runs dry...

Thursday, 10 December 2015


This is a controversial topic that I have spoken about in the past, and of late a distant friend of mine is, and has been, going through this for quite some years.  Sadly, it is not yet recognised in a legal sense in Ireland, but it should be.  

Some years ago I became a side-party to a separated father trying to retain, and gain, access to his two children after separating from his wife.  To say his journey was soul-destroying wouldn't be giving it sufficient justice.  So I shall try and paint a picture here of the realities of how broken men are made, and how they stumble onwards sellotaped-together in some semblance of Life-after-marriage, never quite finding their footing again.  It changes you, Life. Children change you. Losing someone you love who has passed from this life is hard enough.  But losing those you love to a society that has no stance on fathers' rights?  That's a bitter pill to swallow.

This particular man is a gentle soul, a kind person with a good heart.  And he adored his children. His wife, however, was a different matter.  When the marriage finally broke down and both were honest enough to voice their discontent, he announced that he was going to leave.  And that was where the trouble started.  The "how dare you" attitude kicked in, and both she and the mother-in-law (read bitch on a stick)  swore to him that he would never set eyes on his children again.  That he would rue the day he ever left.  That they would "show him".  And boy, have they done just that.

So began a long, arduous battle of the exes, and copious trips to Family Mediators where the children were required, by law, to attend, but not required by law to acquiesce to his protestations of ongoing love and commitment to their well-being.  He travelled great distances, weekly, to knock on the door of the family home to drop off little gifts, in the hope that he would be spared a few moments with his daughter and his son.  To digress here a little, when married, this man worked shifts, as did the wife. And so parental duties were fully shared between the two - he cooked, fetched, carried, played with, and supervised homework, he did housework, shopping, cooking, cleaning.... all in all, it was a fifty-fifty parental role he took upon himself, because he loved and adored his kids.  

He wrote to them every Friday, and posted the letters.  He never received any replies.  He bought gifts for Easter, Christmas, birthdays and hand-delivered them to a closed door - he never received any thanks or acknowledgement.  And still he did the right thing : he kept trying.  At one meeting with the children and the family counsellor, his son began to speak to him only to be switfly kicked under the table by his sister, at which point he shut up.  They had been prompted.  They had been conditioned and warned.  Their heads had been turned.

And the fallout?  He suffered severe depression, coupled with anxiety that eventually transformed into paranoia and misplaced anger.  He could barely drag himself out the bed in the mornings, but he tried.  He became aggressive.  Everyone was to blame but himself. He couldn't find work, because his energy was at such a low it surely transgressed the interviewer's desk and left him wanting.  But still he kept trying.  He lost his self-confidence, confessed he no longer felt like a man of any worth, and suicide was a very real danger in those years.  He despised himself.  He punched himself in the face frequently and tore at his hair, a sure sign of self-loathing with a little bit of poor-me thrown into the mix. He disappeared up mountains and swallowed handfuls of pills - a cry for help?  To me this was a man hell-bent on self-destruction and woe-betide anyone caught in the current, because they were sure to go down, too.  And someone who drops that far down the abyss is a very hard to save.  All in the name of kids.  

I am not sure where he is today, I know he probably lives a quiet life in reasonable isolation; he is not a people's person, and I can't blame him.  Perhaps he has found someone with whom to walk through the shadows of his newly-arranged life, who will help him cope. Because that's all you do really, is cope with the loss of your living children.  

And so, the upshot of it all is that this man lost his children.  The law gave him visitation rights but in this country, the children may choose whether or not they wish to see him.  And of course, under parental alienation in all its glory, this was not forthcoming.  Which brings me to the Bitch.

What kind of a woman intentionally alienates her children against their biological father just because she was too much of a tedious cow for him to continue living with?  No wonder he left.  But she held the Aces, and boy, did she roll the dice in her favour.  Her, and her loving family, tore those children apart, spewing untruths and lies about their father.  These kids were young, impressionable.  I think they were around 8 and 10 at the time.  It's very easy to woo a child onto your side, if you're that way inclined.  Mammy is upset, look what daddy did to mammy, daddy is a bad man.  And so the layers are added until such time as past memories built become misty in their minds, and they, too, learn to become what they live : Bitter.  Judgemental.  Prejudiced.  Little shits.

And yes, I feel vindicated in calling them little shits, because they are no longer 8 and 10.  They have their own minds, and their father's consistency in fighting for them should surely show a more mature mind that dad can't be all that bad, when half the country is crying out for fathers to take more responsibility for their offspring.  They have mobile phones, with his number.  And even if they don't have his number, he's on Facebook.  It's not that difficult to trace someone that wants to be found.

I don't care about these kids.  I've never met them, and quite frankly, I harbour intense dislike for who they have probably become.  I can only make assumptions by their own actions, or lack of, in order to draw my own conclusions.  And I don't think they are going to be very nice adults if they take after the wife's side of the family.  Vindictive creatures, people.

And so, this other friend in a faraway land, suffers the same at the hands of his bitter ex. Poisoned the children's minds against their father - and this, in effect, is as the post says : abuse.  So to emotionally abuse your own children is surely a punishable offence in the eyes of the law?  Not so.  

Children require a balanced upbringing;  be that as separate entities in two homes, or a couple that remain together. Regardless, a mother can never teach that which a father can, and vice versa.  I've said it before, children learn what they live, and she has taught them a few valuable lessons in this life : no one stays.  Everyone will leave you.  Trust no one. Destroy those that choose another path not conducive to your wants.  What do you think is going to happen when said daughter falls in love? Or said son brings home a wife?  Those memory-strings are well-embedded in those minds, and fear of betrayal and possibly lack of respect will follow.  Or, conversely, either or both will become insecure and needy, doubtful of their own emotional maturity and stability.  

I believe you should love your children to the best of your ability - but never at the cost of your own mental and emotional well-being.  You cannot be there for them if you are not there for yourself first.  By ensuring you are healthy, mature, and emotionally-stable will help both you and them in the long run.  These kids are going to grow up, kick you in the arse, and get on with their own lives - it's important not to forget your own life did not stop when they began to breathe.  

To the mothers out there : if you are facing a marital break-down, I ask you, please - put your children's mental and emotional well-being first.  They are not your possessions.  You do not own them.  They are living beings birthed into your care, and your responsibility as an adult is to ensure them safe transit until it is time to set them free.  And that includes manning up to your own failures within your marriage and making the conscious decision not to alienate their father from them.  If you do?  You are damaging beyond repair the things you say you love with all your heart.  That is not love.  That is manipulation, cruelty, and abuse of the highest order.  You don't need to bruise a child to break them. 

To the fathers out there continuing their fight, I salute you.  Do not give up.  Whether or not things work out in your favour is by-the-by.  What matters is the lessons you are teaching from afar - that your love and devotion knows no bounds;  that your commitment to them remains, and the bridge of communication between you will always be open from your side.  You can do no more.  When they are of an age where reason defies the landscape they have been painted, they will come looking for you.  And it is important at this time to try and not be bitter yourself against these children - they were conditioned against you, remember that, and you can only lead from the front by example of who you are as a person. In time, perhaps you will reform a relationship based on adulthood, despite having missed out on the whimsical years of childhood.  Either way, if they are halfway decent, which I hope they will be, they will surely see the error of their mother's ways in time to come.

If not?  

They weren't worth knowing as human beings anyway.  

Thursday, 3 December 2015


"I told her that I was a flop with chics
I've been this way since 1956

She looked at my palm and she made a magic sign

She said "What you need is Love Potion Number Nine"
She bent down and turned around and gave me a wink

She said "I'm gonna make it up right here in the sink"

It smelled like turpentine, it looked like Indian ink
I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink
I started kissin' everything in sight...."

Poets and songwriters have been waxing lyrically for centuries over this little thing called Love;  no one has yet, to the best of my knowledge, managed to define it in its entirety, nor capture the essence of its beauty, its power, its magic.  And yet, it seems everyone's perception of Love differs, and some can't manage to feel it at all.  Why is this?  

Has Darwin's grand idea of evolution by natural selection been set in motion so that we, as humans, can evolve into the finest specimens we can be?  Not by the looks of the chaos and mayhem in the world today.  Love, it seems, has become elusive, and missing from so many aspects of our lives : love for our families, love for our neighbour, and yes, love for ourselves.  There are relationships out there hobbling along, feigning delight but hiding a myriad of troubles, of discord, discontent.  Of settling for what you have, rather than striving to make it better, or find something with depths of which you can only dream.  But rather than take that chance, we remain steadfast in our rituals, our commitments, for fear of the grass being dry and arid if we ever climbed over that fence into the fields beyond...  I would rather wilt and die than compromise myself for the sake of having "someone" around.  I don't need someone.  I am quite sufficient, and quite able, on my own.  I need The One.  And there is a huge difference between the two.

I had an interesting chat with someone last night, and on the subject of Love, he defined his take on it as follows:-

"My scientific mind sees love as a neurological reaction when confronted with a suitable genetically compatible partner for the purposes of reproduction, the desire to progenate healthy successful progeny inclines chemical reactions in the brain to produce feelings that we call love."

Now I'll leave that paragraph hanging there for you to ponder.  Is this someone who feels with his conscious, logical mind, or someone who has a deeper, spiritual understanding of what Love is?  Is this kind of thinking indicative of someone making a conscious decision to love someone, if matters such as "we get along, I like you" is all the criteria necessary in later life?  Do we have a checklist that we mentally tick off, and if we find that most of our standards are met, then yes, that's the one? She doesn't smell, she doesn't look bad, she's not too shabby in the sack, she doesn't hassle me, she's a good cook, she's independent, yes, I'll take that one, please?  Or He.  It works both ways.

It doesn't bode well for me, then, that I am now approaching the Autumn years of my life and no longer in the "progenating" possibilities in this lifetime.  Where does this analysis leave all those menopausal and post-menopausal women who are so very much more than just a vagina waiting to be conquered in the name of companionship?  These women who have lived great lives, raised families, had careers, experienced a plethora of emotional rollercoasters, grown, developed, until at last, they reach that pinnacle of human success : being confident and comfortable with who they are as human beings, and doing the best they can.  So much more than a vagina.

Whilst I do not argue the scientific aspect of chemical reactions and attractions, I do question the uniqueness of the woman, or man, you finally decide to settle with if this is the basis of your analysis of a potential mate.  Obviously there has to be chemistry - and it can often be revealed in the kiss. Does your heart melt, do your legs tremble, do you forget all that is around you?  Or are you peeping out your eyes to see what's going on around you whilst you embark on some oral work-out?  Are you consciously trying to be a good kisser with your mind, or are you kissing with something deeper?  It can't be faked, people.  This much you must at least understand and accept, even if you have not experienced it yet.  Because if the day comes that you do, I can promise you it's like awakening from a deep sleep, and returning to a place you had long since forgotten about.  You may have.  Your soul did not.

Yep, you have it - an incurable romantic.  But one that has had the experience of true love, and so, once tasted, it is never quite forgotten, and instantly recognisable when it happens again.  If it happens again.

I watched a television documentary on Love, and an experiment they conducted was to put T-shirts worn by various men and women into plastic bags, and allowing singletons to have a sniff.  I kid you not.  No perfume was allowed.  Pure and utter body odours.  The men sniffed, the women sniffed, and chose the ones that appealed to their senses, before later being introduced in a separate room. And the results were quite amazing, because the physical attraction once introduced was quite obvious to many - not all, but many.  Which goes to prove there are so many more factors involved in this game of Love than just looks.  Chemistry, they said.  And it doesn't just involve the eyes.

Can you fall in love with someone you've never met, but have spoken to, or texted with, for some time?  Yes, I think you can, but only slightly.  The mystery, the excitement, the feeling-wanted certainly helps, because after all, everyone likes to feel attractive to the opposite sex.  Because there is a connection that happens mentally, too - a compatibility of humour, of wit, of intelligence, that is immediately attractive, thereby breaking down potential barriers based on looks when you finally meet.  Yes, of course your eyes must like what they see, but if you have already formed a connection prior to this, they become less important.  No one in their latter years, unless you're an A-lister in Hollywood, is an oil-painting other than gym fanatics and narcissists who spend all their time preening.  Have a good romp in the bed and the deal is almost sealed.  Or is it?

I have met some lovely people in my time.  I have loved many people in so many different ways in my lifetime - my parents, my daughter, my dogs, my lovers, my friends.  I get along with nearly everyone - but it doesn't mean just because we get along, that romantic love will flow.  Perhaps it is affection.  Perhaps companionship.  Perhaps a meeting of minds.  But you better be very careful not to confuse lust with love when you jump in with both feet.  Love is too complex, too intense, to allow you to manipulate it to suit your needs, and in time you may wake one morning to realise you have, yet again, settled.

So what are the signs that you may be falling in love?  Here are some excerpts taken from another source for clarification: (I am using "she" here but obviously it works both ways)

You forget about your ex.
You can't stop thinking about her.
You care about what she wants.
You find her quirks charming.
You feel more complete when you're with her.
You don't have a need to notice other women as much.
You love spending time with her.
You don't mind compromising.
She makes you feel happy.
Other priorities take a back-seat.
You start thinking about the future - and she's in it.

The above can be elaborated upon, but you can Google that yourself.  If you're finding your mind pretty occupied by your object of desire, chances are you are heading towards that little thing called Love.  When your own needs no longer seem that important, when your desire is to please her, to make her laugh, and when your solitary life pales in comparison since she came into yours, here's a heads-up:  take care.  You are about to step onto that water-slide and there ain't no stopping it once you do.

There were plenty of lovely men I would have chosen to fall in love with in my lifetime if I could have made it happen.  Good, kind, really nice men.  But the first step in realising whether or not you are in love, or just in admiration of, is in knowing yourself and being able to recognise and differentiate between lust, and Love.  Sadly, there aren't any potions that exist to kick-start the latter. It's either there.  Or it isn't.

In a nutshell?  Put away the logic and the reason.  Thrust aside the analysis and the check-list.  When you kiss her, do so with your heart, and if there is something deeper, it will show itself.  Everyone can kiss.  Everyone can do the dodgy in bed.  It's not even very good when it's mechanical.  But not everyone has the privilege of having their souls set on fire... that, my friend, is exceptional.

And exceptional, to me, is Love.

Monday, 20 July 2015


Many of us are all too familiar with medications such as Xanax, Prozac, Valium and Ativan - anyone who has suffered with, or known someone, with depression, anxiety or PTSD will recognise them.  Those little magic pills that boost serotonin levels and balance the stress hormone to help people better manage their mental disorders, or mental disease.  Such an ugly term, mental disease.  But it is exactly that - a "dis-ease" of the mind.  The causes are often undiagnosed;  the outcome, however, remains constant, and it's not shy in crossing the species.

Domestic animals are now being diagnosed on a frighteningly regular basis with ailments that were previously reserved for their human counterparts.  And as animals do not have cognitive thought, it stands to reason that these ailments are originating in our subconscious, or instinctual, minds.

Think about it.  Animals that are forced to interact with humans are no longer living the lives which they are hard-wired to survive.  Think about zoos, circuses, amusement parks.  Think about the degrading tricks and repetitive daily routines they are forced to endure, against their natural instincts.  They are kept on farms, in stables and laboratories, live in cages, pens and crates.  Even the ones that are cosseted in our homes spend much of their time confined indoors when every scrap of their DNA they possess is screaming at them to be out in a field or a forest. 

And so, they go nuts.

Some reported incidents are the likes of chickens on industrial farms who peck each other to death;  the killer whale that drowned his trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in 2010;  the polar bear who spent his life swimming in robotic laps in a small pool from which there was no escape, until his death in 2013. 

However, it is the domesticated animal that we are more familiar with, and with today's society of such expensive housing, more and more of them are being confined to live in apartments or flats, with no outdoor space, and often left alone for hours on end each day whilst their owners work.  Parrots tear out their feathers, cats lick themselves repeatedly until their fur reduced to raw skin, abused dogs cower in terror at the sight of a human hand.

It is this fact that I have become more aware of first hand, as I recently adopted a beautiful Cairn terrier.  I do not know her full story;  the fosterer tells me she was found thrown down a drain, and she took her in when she was about six months old.  Now the ideal period for socialising a dog is regarded as being very early on in its life - approximately 4 to 8 weeks of age.  If this period of a dog's existence is filled only with terror and pain, it may leave irrevocable scar tissue behind - and not necessarily physical, but mental. 

So what has my experience been thus far?  Prone to nervous urination (which I was aware of at the time of taking her on) proved to be fact.  If you looked at her, she peed.  Not a full bladder, just a little wee which shouted very clearly, "I am afraid of you!"  Petrified of doorways for some reason - would not pass me if I was near the door, which made me wonder had she ever been kicked out of one?  Had to be lifted in and out of the front door, and although we have now progressed to her exiting it just fine - she's mad to go on her daily walks and knows now that the open door means a car drive and a long run - re-entering it upon our return is another story. 

When I first started throwing the ball for my other dog, Kandi the rescue would scuttle away, tail down.  Any sudden movement of the arms meant danger to her, and she would run.  Cower.  Had she been hit?  Kicked?  I don't know.

Now?  After two months of regular walks and ball throwing, Kandi now jumps up at me to get on with it, throw the damn ball, woman!  Slowly, very slowly, she is emerging as a beautiful, brave little girl but the scars are there to see and I fear they always will be.  She is different to Keela.  Keela is shy, submissive, but not afraid.  Keela has trust, she is the friendliest little girl ever.  Kandi, however, is like a baby if she's tired or hasn't slept enough, her fears re-emerge.  She can be flighty, and mistrustful of even me at times, although I am happy to report that this is lessening every day.  The urination has stopped.  At feeding time, I have to make sure she is in a safe spot to eat, because any sudden movements from me and she is heading for the garden - where she disappears into the bushes.  I have learnt to leave her, and she comes out now of her own accord, she's too nosy to stay gone too long, and the temptation of a cuddle on my cosy bed is too hard for her to resist.

She also chases her tail, and although this was funny to begin with, I have coaxed her into not doing it - it is a sure sign of OCD.  The trick with a damaged dog, as with a damaged human, is to know when to advance, and know when to retreat.  It's a delicate dance of love, predictable routine, and safety.  These are paramount to the recovery of any wounded mammal, be it dog or human.  Broken trust, it seems, covets a broad range of species.

Service dogs in armed forces suffer with PTSD.  The smell of blood, or loud noises, can result in exhibiting jumpiness, anxiety, loss of appetite, and poor sleep.  And at the end of the day, the damage is usually done by us humans.  What lovely things, us people. 

Just as with human brains, animal brains have their levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and you better know what you're dealing with before you take on an animal, let alone an abused one.  It has no voice.  YOU are its voice, its protector, its leader.  I'm not sure on the facts, but I think it takes 7 years to become a medical doctor and 9 years to become a vet.  Why?  Because animals can't tell you what's wrong, or what they're feeling.  It's up to you as a vet or an owner, to learn to read the body language and signals your pet is giving you every minute of every day. 

Exercise your pet - allow it to smell the grass, mix with other animals, roll in the mud, chase a ball.  All these things serve to build a happy and safe environment where your pet will learn to thrive.  It's part of your family - treat it as you would a child.  There is no difference.  My dogs are my children, seeing as my own has grown and flown.  I love them with all my heart.  In my darkest moments, they have been right there next to me.  I lost my best friend last year, and she has now been replaced by Kandi.  Who is afraid of people, but not of animals.  Now I wonder why that is? 

Other symptoms include a condition called pica, which involves a compulsion to mouth or eat inedible things.  Kandi has that.  She chews and eats everything she finds, despite having sufficient bones and treats on a daily basis.  Yesterday I found a wicker drawer shredded;  toilet rolls have been snuck out of the bathroom; she ate a sponge; she demolishes any ball she finds;  she steals things which is quite funny, and something the fosterer had told me about before I took her on.  She takes my socks outside and hides them in the grass.  She has a particular penchant for the tops of spray cans, nice hard plastic ones that she can chew.  Today she chewed the zip on a jacket I'd left within reaching distance.  Thankfully she has not yet attempted to chew the legs of my table, but I keep a close eye on her just in case.

Kandi has learnt to trust, albeit bit by bit.  She knows me.  She knows my family.  She is respected, loved, exercised and fed.  The discipline is another matter - you can't reprimand a damaged dog like you would a normal, naughty one.  Raised voices or, heaven forbid, a raised hand, is an absolute no-no.  They regress immediately, and all your hard work can be undone in an instant - and so a gentle hand and a loving environment with a few buckets of patience is vital to a rescued dog's ability to socialise itself.  And it takes Time.  Patience.  Devotion.  Consistency.  Truth. 

Keela is a gentle little thing, but sometimes she gives out a snap to warn Kandi that she's not in the mood.  Kandi takes not a blind bit of notice, turns her bum to Keela, and peers at her over her shoulder - the whites of her eyes showing her mischief.  After our daily walks have finished for the day, the evening routine begins.  After dinner, Kandi goes upstairs and tears about the place for a good twenty minutes - you can hear her paws like thunder on the wooden floors.  Then she comes down and taunts Keela.  Followed swiftly by a good ten-minute grand prix around my garden, her back legs trying to overtake her front ones.  She makes me laugh, and raises my serotonin levels to a natural high.  Then she collapses on the couch with  Keela and me, curls up, and snuffles in contentment.  Such bliss.  Such joy she brings, until finally the three of us traipse upstairs to bed.  In fact, Kandi so knows the routine by now that when I turn off the TV she's first up the stairs.

I have to mention her fosterer here, a lady by the name of Shauna who spends her life and devotes all of her time to caring for, and rescuing, as many animals as she can.  She has been doing it for ten years, and she's only 26.  When I spoke with her, she had seven dogs. If she heads out for a night, her friends all tease her because she can't get home to her babies quick enough. 

Since Kandi, I have been following her on FB.  She's taken in kittens which she had to bottle-feed every few hours, right through the night.  She has just taken in a little terrier heavily pregnant with pup - she sat up with her, and after giving birth to the first pup, Shauna realised she was in trouble.  Cue a taxi, a trip to the vet, and a C-section to deliver the other little babies, and now starts the long journey of caring for, and later, weaning, these little ones before seeking out suitable homes for them all.

I paid her a compliment;  I told her that despite us all saying "aww", none of us are doing what she is, and that she is to be commended for her dedication.  And her answer?  "It's simple - I just love them."  Ain't that the truth. 

To all the animal welfare workers out there, all over the world, I salute you.  We all salute you.  It says a lot about the people you are, the kindness and empathy you share, and the devotion and dedication you give to all the animals. 

I can't take on loads of animals.  But I've taken one.  And my intention is to make sure she has the best life she could ever wish for.  People tell me she's a lucky dog to have found me.  I think I'm the lucky one.  She reminds me why being kind is so very important, and affordable to anyone. 

All you need is love, right?  And more animals.  Because we learn far more from them than we do each other.

Monday, 29 June 2015


When I was ten years old, my school teacher asked me to remain after class to discuss my work.  He locked the door behind the other students when they left.  He asked me to come closer, until he managed to pull me up onto his knee.  He began to stroke my back, and I felt uncomfortable but I didn't move away.  He was my teacher.  An adult.  His hand moved lower until it rested on my knee, where his fingers patterned circles on my thigh in an upward motion.  My skirt raised.  His hand touched me in my private place, and I could feel the blood rush to my face.  All the while, he told me what a pretty girl I was, and so clever, and I was sure to be best in class.  When he had finished, he told me not to tell anyone;  that it was our little secret, and that he would make sure to give me an "A" on my next project.  He told me my family would be very angry with me if they found out, and they would be disgusted with me, perhaps stop loving me.  So it would be best not to say anything at all.  I left the room feeling frightened, confused, scared.  Violated.  But I didn't know that yet - I was only ten.  What had happened was too complicated for my child-mind to comprehend.

The above is a complete fabrication and an outright lie.  I repeat.  The above IS A COMPLETE FABRICATION AND AN OUTRIGHT LIE. 

It did NOT HAPPEN.  I made it up.  But, see, I KNOW it is a lie, and that's what separates a lie from a false memory.  A liar knows that what they are accusing someone of is not true.  But a false memory?  Well, that's a completely different matter altogether.  Someone experiencing possible false memories totally and utterly believe, without any doubt, that what they "remember", is truth.  And it can plague them for many years in their life, albeit no more real or true than my fabrication above. 

Memory is a fickle thing.  It cannot be trusted, and it manufactures facts to fill the gaps it no longer recalls.  Have you ever been utterly convinced that you had a blue coat as a youngster, totally, 100% sure - yet you've seen photographs at a later time only to discover the coat was, in fact, green?  But you were so sure!  Yes, you were - and your brain complied with your false memory and made that coat blue.  Even though it was green....  If not for photographic evidence, you'd go to your grave swearing blind that it was blue, and no one could disprove it unless they had witnessed the said coat, or seen photographs to prove otherwise.  Get me?

This is the case with many false allegations made against people of a far more serious nature.  Suddenly, thirty years later, you 'recall' an incident that your memory had long since repressed.  Perhaps it was of such an awful nature that it was the only thing your brain could do to protect you.  And if there are gaps in your memory bank, your brain will be more than happy to replace those gaps with false memories so that the story is complete.  And the more you replay this story in your mind, the more convinced you are that it is the absolute truth. 

Science has proven beyond doubt that memory cannot be trusted.  That the mind can create a truth that is a lie.  Christopher French of Goldsmiths University in London says there is still a lack of awareness of how unreliable human memory is.  "Although this is common knowledge within psychology and widely accepted in anybody who has studied this literature, it's not widely known in society.

"There are still people who believe that memory works like a video camera, as well as people who accept the Freudian notion of repression - that when something terrible happens the memory is shoved down into the subconscious but is recorded for prosperity in absolute truth.

"The evidence, however, of the accuracy of repressed memories," he adds, "is very thin on the ground, because the mind can conjure and replace gaps with manufactured illusions that become absolute truth to the person of those thoughts - irrespective of whether or not they are true."

Have you ever chatted to someone from your past and shared childhood memories?  I have had the privilege of regaining contact with childhood friends from my years in South Africa - and it's amazing how each of us remember something different about each other.  For example, my neighbour reminded me that I saw him run naked from the bathroom when I was visiting one time - I had completely forgotten this until he prompted me to remember. 

Another childhood friend commented on how I used to be such a fast runner, that I ran like the wind, that I beat him, and he wasn't slow.  I don't remember this, but he does.  When we spoke a little more, both of us laughed at the recollection of another neighbour - the same age as us - who showed us his "sausage" in the shed of his father.  We were kids.  I'd never seen a sausage before.  I thought it was the ugliest thing I ever saw.  The shower of said sausage, however, does not remember this happening at all.  Again, our memories cannot be trusted. 

Our memories are a collection of data filtered by an imperfect brain.  Our brains are not computers.  They are not purely logical.  They are emotional, fickle.  And highly dangerous if they reconstruct a memory that is damaging to another's reputation. 

I know a woman - she minded a young child whilst her mother was at work.  She drank copious amounts of alcohol and has many blackouts of nights she does not remember.  She often had to keep her daughters home from school to mind the little girl, because she was still drunk from the night before.  She even woke one morning to find herself asleep on the settee with her young daughter's boyfriend.  Another time, she crawled naked into the sitting room on her hands and knees whilst her younger daughter had a friend over from school.  Many men passed through her home. I guarantee you she would deny this, because she does not remember.  It doesn't mean it didn't happen.  And the face she has on is always one of indignation and innocence - keeping her own dark past buried.

When you are a parent and you expose your vulnerable children to an unstable and unbalanced childhood, it causes damage.  Cause and Effect.  And the effect is often a child who has difficulty making close relationships with others in their adulthood, who would suffer with self-esteem issues, anxiety, and in all likelihood, depression and bipolar tendencies. Psychosis is a natural progression from mental trauma, and neurosis is a given. Being a control-freak is also a by-product of a childhood that felt out of control.  Perhaps they were exposed to sexual experiences long before they were able to process what was happening.  And to the shocked juvenile mind, it can be repressed and be the root cause of issues in adulthood, without them realising this is the source. 

The danger here, of course, is that repressed memories are not accurate.  But if the mind decides that something happened in their childhood, and it is a false memory (not a lie), then it becomes that person's absolute truth.  The mind will then generate the accompanying emotions to suit that memory, and you could end up making false allegations against someone who, in fact, had nothing to do with the situation whatsoever.  The longer it takes for the mind to offer up its recollections, the less reliable the information is. 

If you have no proof, if you have no medical evidence or records to substantiate any false allegations you may decide have surfaced in your memory, you have no right - I repeat - no right to vocalise these accusations to the detriment of another.  This is slander and defamation of character and is a punishable offence.

No therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist will state as absolute fact that which is told to them in session.  All they can do is state that the client is suffering with symptoms such as X, Y and Z and suggest treatment and medication accordingly.  No one knows better than a psychological professional that swearing under oath to the root cause of a client's neurosis is the fastest way to go out of business.  It's unethical.  Unprofessional.  Unreliable.

If such allegation ever got to court, the parent's past history, and the accuser's moral behaviour, will be brought under the microscope, all protective clothing will be removed by witnesses, family members, friends, so that the judge can make an educated decision based on all the facts presented to him. 

Whilst I empathise with anyone who is in pain and who has suffered the consequences of memory, false or otherwise, I cannot condone anyone who believes memory is gospel because it isn't.  

And as for those that run their mouths off and gather troops and tell as many people as they can their own beliefs, well, more fool those that climb on the bandwagon with them. 

If I told you again my teacher abused me repeatedly throughout my childhood, does that make it true through repetition?  Would you believe me if I keep saying it?  Would you all gather round me and nail him to the cross? 

If you have any level of intelligence at all, no, you wouldn't.  There are three sides to every story - your side, my side, and the truth.  And sadly, with the flighty recalling ability of the mind, the truth is never black or white.  It is very much as grey as the brain itself.

And for the record - my teacher never laid a finger on me.  I'm just saying this to highlight a point.

Don't believe everything you hear. 

And sure as hell be careful what you say, because very soon you may find someone knocking on your door..... and Pandora's Box may well reveal a lot more than you bargained for. 

Forewarned is forearmed.