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.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


Isaiah 26:19
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
OK.  I know this topic is going to be controversial.  I know it will upset some faith-bound religious believers.  I know some will see it as a form of blasphemy.  As usual, I'm going to write it anyway...
I watched a movie last night called World War Z, or something like that, with Brad Pitt.  Now, granted, it was not his finest hour;  in fact, I thought it was a poor performance altogether.  But - again - it did get me thinking.

The gist of the movie was of course a Zombie Apocolypse - healthy humans far outnumbered by a mass of flesh-eating undead.  And Brad's job was to find a way to outwit them.  Someone came up with the idea of infecting them with diseases, but of course you can't make the dead sick.  They're dead, for heaven's sake.  Yet returned to Earth as remnants of their former selves, the darkest possible version of who they once were.


Once,  not terribly long ago, it was in far-fetched cartoons that allowed men to talk into their watches;  that put space travellers onto far-flung planets;  in 1964, Isaac Asimov wrote that in 50 years we’d be living in a science fiction reality. Among his prophesies that have now arrived are instant coffee, driverless cars, and robots to vacuum our homes (I'm still trying to find one of those, to be honest).  And even these are miniscule to what has further become reality.

But Asimov wasn’t the only sci-fi visionary, and his predictions seem quaint against some of 2014’s actual advances, such as robotic arm transplants, cloned pets, and quantum teleportation.  We have self-driving cars now, or at least those that assist the spatially-challenged to park; we have E-books, paperless reading matter, and online news reports; lest we forget the phenomenon that is the internet, allowing you at this present moment, to read what's on my mind; we have video-chat, Skype, email, blue-tooth, wireless communication - all these were but a figment of someone's imagination, once upon a time.
 In Harry Potter it’s magic, but in the real world there is actually scientific progress being made toward genuine invisibility cloaks. Researches at Duke University, for example, have used what they call “metamaterials” to bend light waves around an object that measures 7.5 by 1 centimeter. And they aren’t the only ones making progress with “metamaterials,” either. So we might actually have “invisibility” cloaks in the near future.  Now that's one thing I could have a whole lot of fun with....

We have paperless billing; transactions that now take place by merely swiping a card; tablet computers were around in Star Trek (where they are called PADDs—look it up) pretty much from the beginning. But the most interesting prediction of these ubiquitous gadgets comes from 2001: A Space Odyssey, clearly showing the use of one. And this is from 1968, long before people even had any notion of “personal computing.”
So if all these fictitious and science-fiction oddities have now become part of our very routine lives, can we really not take into account the possibility of what "The Bible" tells us will become a reality?  It prophesises the dead becoming undead;  that they will rise again.  What it does not tell us, is in what form? 
To be honest, I can do without meeting any past-humans in the form they must surely now take, let alone wanting to take a chomp out of me and turn me into one of them.  In all movies referring to Zombies, the writers have one thing in common - noise attracts these undead.  And yet, what is one of the things all religions teach us?  To learn to become silent; to respect and favour the practice of quiet.  Wonder why that is....  And surely a Life can only be finally defined in Death?  Who'd want to live forever anyway?  I certainly don't want to come back again, not from this life anyway.  It has, at best, been disappointing.
Zombies are those troublesome dead walkers that just get in the way of a good night out - they either want to eat your brains or have a quick nibble on your nuts; they are usually slow creatures that are easy to outrun, but in high numbers and in confined spaces they can be fatal. Can you imagine a Zombie Hitler? So.  How DO you kill something that's already supposed to be dead?
First and foremost, when you shoot a gun try and aim for the head shot, because in too many films have I seen some rather dumb people just waste valuable ammo shooting the zombies shoulders and chest; one head shot seems to do it and if you can't shoot straight, it's best to go to a shooting range to practice your gun skills, because if you don't you will probably be that bad at shooting a gun, you will pop a cap in some poor bastard's arse who may not be a zombie - and that would be bad.  Thing is, gun ownership in Ireland is reserved for farmers or hunters.  Us common-folk aren't allowed to own a gun for self-preservation. So the Irish, other than the farmers, are pretty much fucked.  Ah well.
Sharpen those machetis up, so that when the time comes you can have yourselves a zombie decapitation spree in the local shopping mall whilst browsing the price of toothpaste - could be a bit of entertainment to brighten up a dull Saturday.  We could open up Zombie-Killing Centres, take our kids for a target-practising day out;  fun for all the family. Just think of the business opportunities!  Someone will surely benefit from an influx of their dead relatives.
Oh yes, and we cannot forget Brad's solution - to infect yourself with disease, as apparently Zombies have a penchant for healthy bodies.  But wait - aren't we doing that already?  We eat junk food, we drink too much, we partake in drugs, we consume food that is genetically-enhanced and constructed more from preservatives than protein.  So all in all, we should be pretty safe from our ancestors when the time comes for them to reclaim their place on Earth.  Shouldn't we...?

No-one knows what the future holds, but one thing remains true : that which the mind can conceive, it can achieve.  And there has been far too many ramblings about zombies for my liking...  They say only the good die young;  maybe so.  And maybe they shall exact their vengeance on us all before the sands of time finally run out.  I wonder will my beloved dog Betty remember me, and give me a pass?  Na.  Guess not. 
How can I be so flippant and make such ludicrous assumptions?  How can a seemingly intelligent brain come up with such drivel?  Well, it's not really just my mind dredging up this stuff.

After all, the Bible tells us so.  No?

Friday, 8 May 2015


I have a new friend;  she's called Nettie, short for Netflix.  And Nettie shows me amazing things and keeps me out of mischief for hours on end.

My last couch-induced coma was called Orphan Black, an amazing series about Clones... well-worth a watch, and kudos to the actress that took the various characters on board - she did a sterling job.  And whilst I was still wondering what it must be like to have identical people to you out there, living different lives with different people, an alter-ego if you will.... along came the next series.

Once Upon A Time.  Wow.  I am fascinated by and in awe of the writers of this show - they took, in summary, old fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, the list goes on... and spins a modern-day tale with red herrings, hooks, twists and turns so psychologically clever, I bow in defeat.  A story of two worlds, of how those same characters would fare in our own world today, without magic (at first), and how the personality traits transverse the portals between our many worlds, or our many facets. 

And, but of course, it got me thinking about what titles I would put on people that have crossed my life;  which characters they would take in that other world, how their behaviour mirrors some of these people the Brothers Grimm, so long, long ago, devised.  And perhaps the Brothers Grimm need to be added to our list of wise men, for they certainly knew far more about the human psyche than even they first realised. 

I like writing;  it releases a lot of stuff I don't want to carry around.  But I don't have a very vivid imagination, therefore I am better at analytical writing than fictional.  I can't visualise a character, or a magical forest, or fairies or elves.  I can't see it.  I'm too logical.  Even when I wrote a fictional novel, it was based on a couple I had known.... their character traits, their quirks.  I'm afraid my imagination is very much black and white, devoid of the colourful dyes required to bring it to life and make it three-dimensional.  I'm too bland to create something new;  but I can take something someone else has created, and admire the beauty and skill of it.  How they spin a tale of gold from straw. 

So now, back to the characters of Brothers Grimm.  Whilst I have met a lot of them, I have not had a physical relationship with all of them - that would make me a slut, and terribly tired.  I am neither.  But I have come into contact with them.  And so have you, if you take enough time to stop and think.

Take Pinocchio - we've all met him, haven't we?  The liar?  The one who can't help but spin himself into a web so intricate, that even he can't remember where the thread started.  Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.  You know the one - his nose grows.  Or perhaps nose is a euphemism for penis.  Perhaps he is the adulterer, the one who deceives his wife, his family, and thinks he is beyond reproach.  (I've just heard an incredibly stupid Pinocchio on the Niall Boylan radio show, he came on air to admit how many affairs he's had over the years of his marriage - and someone recognised his voice, and ultimately played the podcast to his wife.  This Pinocchio's growing nose has got him into an awful lot of bother).

I know of another Pinocchio who is having an affair with Snow White who has, perhaps, in the interim become Black Ice.  And we all know how dangerous it is to drive on roads with this.... you can't see it coming.  Before you know it, you're mangled on the barriers, leaving detritus and debris behind you in your wake.

I've met Prince Charming - but his alter-ego in this world left him wanting.  He was dapper, and kind, and handsome, but he was weak and unable to slay his earthly dragons.  He was no warrior, had no drive in him to fight,, choosing instead to become Little Boy Blue who now has to blow his own horn amongst the sheep where he now lives.  He lost something in chancing a journey through the portal to this world - he lost himself because he gave up. 

I loved the Huntsman once, for seven years - my first love.  Strong, masculine, nature's boy.  A real man. He is still the Huntsman, just old and weathered and jaded now, with less reason to hunt; his strength sapped since he cut his hair.  Now he is merely an ageing man with no family, living in a workshop with no trees or forests surrounding him.  What magical powers he once held over me;  that love I will never forget, it is my benchmark in this world.

I've met Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, and Stealthy.  No diamonds were found amongst their rubble, and they were forever cast into the abyss.

How about Rumpelstiltskin with his ego of gold, and where any favour bestowed by him comes at a price too high to pay?  The one who always has an agenda with his name clearly printed at the top?  The one who is always wheeling and dealing, trying to pull a fast one, thinking himself so clever?  And who, at the end of the day, will end up alone and peeing into his slippers.

Red, as in Riding Hood?  She turned out to be the wolf.  Her cloak kept her from turning, but there were times she chose to leave her cloak behind, and wreak havoc and destruction with absolutely no conscience or memory of doing so.  Her grandmother knew this, and tried to protect her from herself by giving her an enchanted red cloak, but evil, like water, has a way of finding another way out.

Sleeping Beauty was a lazy wench, feigning sleep to avoid pulling her weight, expecting everyone around her to sort her life out.  She currently has a mattress attached to her back as the world outside passes her by.

Cinderella?  In our world, she'd probably be a single mother bemoaning her lot in life, having wanted it to be oh-so-different and now despondent and depressed as she works in a laundry;  what a wicked world this is, for not providing her with the life she felt she was entitled to.  Get a job, you layabout.

Hansel and Gretel?  The children no-one wanted;  the wicked step-mother who used her wiles to persuade the father to lose them in the woods....  These are our adopted children who are forever condemned to a life of feeling unloved, left wondering what they had done wrong.  These are our restless and empty souls who never find the peace which they seek.

The Frog Prince - well, we've all kissed a few frogs in our time, and none of them turned out to be Princes.  They are still out there, spreading warts and all sorts amongst unsuspecting women.

Tom Thumb - the wannabe-boy who was too insignificant and small to make any kind of impact on the world.  The one who tries to convince himself that he is equal to his peers (which he is), but who can never quite accept that it's true, and so condemns himself to a life of feeling inadequate, not strong enough, big enough, worthy enough.  Condemned therefore to a life of searching for that one elusive element he thinks will make his life complete.  He is the "if only" man.  The problem with "if only", is that he never recognises when he finally gets there.  How can he?  He keeps moving the goalposts.

And of course, how can I forget : The Wicked Witch.  We have ALL met one of these, be it someone you work with, someone you live near, or someone - even - that you may be related to.  The one who is jealous of everyone, who claps her hands in glee when something bad befalls you, who relishes in your downfall, whilst smiling sweetly all the time.  Check her handbag.  You'll probably find a large mirror inside.  And she probably owns an orchard.

Enough examples given.  But it does give us pause for thought, doesn't it?  For those that believe in reincarnation, could it be that we were once a stronger, nicer, more successful version of ourselves in another world?  Are our disabilities and impediments in this world a penance for our actions in a world we no longer remember?  Just because we don't remember, doesn't mean it isn't there. 

Which brings me nicely to closing up with the philosophies of Buddhism - that we are filtered over and over again, paying penance and debts incurred in our previous lives, until such time as we have become the best version of ourselves that we can be.  An accumulation of talents, skills, kindness, honesty and love.  You've met those, too, haven't you?  Those wise old souls that you wish you could be more like.  Those people who seem to have knowledge beyond our realm, a depth and a soul so old you can almost touch it. Almost. 

Yes, I've met a lot of different souls along my journey.  Their bodies are only the shells in which they travel, and given time, they reveal themselves for who they really are.  If they show you who they are, believe them.  The Good, the Bad, and the very, very Ugly. 

I think the strongest character of all, is Pinocchio.  People are liars.  They deceive.  They promise things they do not mean, or have any intention of following up on.  They disguise themselves in any one of the above cloaks, never being true to who they actually are.  Or perhaps they are being true - perhaps they are the scurge, the ogres, the pong of our society.  I meet Pinocchios all the time. 

But every now and again, you find a diamond.

I think I shall remain Queen of Hearts, collecting them as I go, and losing them in the maze when they turn out to be duds.

Off with their heads.

Thursday, 30 April 2015


For the most part, schools are becoming more pro-active in teaching our kids about the art of safe sex in the hope that it will prevent any unwanted pregnancies whilst they are fooling about under bridges...  it's a frightening thought, how young our kids are when they start giving themselves to random people.  If your daughter (or son) has taken to wearing a lot of scarves, take a closer look. The territorial marking amongst youngsters, I'm afraid, remains at the ol' lovebite stage.  Amongst their peers, it seems to be a badge of honour.  Look - I got laid.  Or at least groped.

A lot of the time, it's in the hope that said boy will make said girl their "girlfriend", and they will then be able to belong to somone who will hopefully send them a Valentine's card, or buy them jewellery from Penney's.  It's the same old same old - we are all looking to belong, and to be wanted.

However, this post is about safe sex in another context.  How much do you really know about the person you are seeing?  Ok, if you're in your teens and hanging out around your local town, and know all the local boys, chances are you'll know which ones to avoid and which ones to take a chance on. Sadly, girls tend to go after the bad boys, and they, more often than not, can land you in an awful lot of bother.  Bad boys are notoriously seeking attention, defy authority, and try and be as rebellious as possible - look closer at their home life, and you might find out why.  Regardless, "edgy" boys have a kind of magnetism about them - the female inevitably wants to be the one that tames him.  And that will never happen, girls, move on. Fast.

That studious boy who plays sport after school, and helps his father out in the garden?  He's a good start.  The one who doesn't smoke, or get plastered as a form of entertainment, and who has manners? He's another good option.  Most girls don't look far enough ahead into their futures when picking a partner.  They are very much in the here-and-now, and as such, wonder why, as they sit alone at home a few years later with a couple of kids, no money, and a wandering philanderer missing in action, how they got there.

How? You chose him.  Never forget, you can unchoose him, too. 

But let's take this one step further.  What if said girl is older? Wiser?  Well-travelled?  Knows how the world works?  Well, they have to be even more vigilant, because the bad boys have grown up into bad men, and they've become sneakier, and better at duping you.  Ah, if it's only your heart he will break, you'll get over him in time;  hopefully put it down to experience and learn from it. However, what if it's more sinister?  More dangerous?  How do you ever really know the person without the passage of time?  Truth is, you don't.  So you trust, and take a chance, sometimes at the cost of your life.

I will not mention the girl's name here, but one such tragic instance has befallen our small community, too terrible and shocking and horrific to contemplate for one of our own.  She was out with her friends in a nightclub.  You've done that, right?  She was having a few drinks, letting her hair down.  You've done that, too, right? Let's paint a scenario now that we don't have the full facts for. 

Let's say it's you.

You meet a fella inside.  Perhaps you dance, he buys you a drink. He's flirting with you, making you feel good, desirable, pretty.  You flirt back.  You've been there, too, haven't you?  Perhaps you've seen him in the club a few times...  he seems to know some people, has become familiar somehow.  Perhaps he has been grooming you. I don't know. Perhaps it's your first meeting.  We've all been there at some stage in our lives....

Things are heating up, and you leave said club with him.  A complete stranger, really.  And your young, hopeful, bright future is snuffed out with that one snap decision.  He is charming; of course he is.  That's his tack. Look a little closer.  Use your common sense, in the name of all that is good.  But common sense is tempered now with that last tequila shot;  you feel happy.  So you ignore your survival instincts and turn up the volume on your primal ones.  You've condoms in your purse - check.  Your lippy is back on - check.  And you've your phone with you just in case - check. Someone's sure going to score tonight - the only thing is, it won't be you.

He has a nice car, you chat, the music is turned up, he suggests going somewhere quieter to talk - and you know full well he wants to make out.  I mean, what could happen, right?  You have your phone...

The newspaper said she'd been viciously hit over the head with a spanner, before being strangled. Her body parts - yes, parts - were found quite a few miles away, where he'd tried to dispose of her body in chemicals, probably after the likes of watching CSI or such on telly.  If he had not chosen that night to do it, she could well have told her friends she'd met a really nice man.

With the online dating world becoming the norm, how well do we really know the men, or women, we choose to meet after just a couple of emails?  I don't meet them, simple as.  I am wise enough to know that nothing is as it seems, and it will take a lot of digging to come up with that diamond. That's ok - I'm in no hurry, and I want the best, so I can wait.  And watch very carefully.  Because eventually the signs will out.  It might be a word here, or a gesture there, but something will start to feel wrong, and it's at this point that you listen very carefully to your guardian angel, and step the hell away.

Not everyone has that level of common sense, though.  It's human nature to want to love, be loved, and belong.  That's the commonality amongst us all.  But at what cost?  I remember nights of sweating whilst my beautiful daughter was out on the town.  She dated young, and "went steady" young, too - much to the disdain of her father.  But I took a different tack.  I'd rather her be with one person that I knew, and knew the family, than have her out single and short-skirted and drinking...  at least she was being taken care of.  Did it mean nothing bad would happen to her?  Of course not, the risks were still there - but the odds were in her favour that it wouldn't.

And I'm not condoning staying single, either.  I'm just saying, be very careful.  Predators hunt their prey for a long time before attacking.  They watch your movements;  they gauge your body language, your signals.  They sweet-talk you.  Flatter you.  They might even spike your drink.  Yes, it happens. It's happening right this instant somewhere in the world.  And if you're giving them the come hither, it's as good as a green light for action.

So how do you protect yourself?  How do you "check them out" before learning that your trust is correctly placed?  First of all, take your time.  Take as long as you want.  If he's worth the wait, he won't be going anywhere.  If he heads off, let him go.  There's a saying that I love - if you love someone, set them free.  If they come back, no one else wanted them.  Set them free again.  :-)

I don't believe in one perfect match for a person's lifetime.  I believe there are many permutations of that philosophy, and I believe you can meet many people in your lifetime that you can love.  I do believe in soulmates, and again, there can be a few of them.  This is a connection at a deeper level : mentally, physically, and emotionally - and they do exist.   And you'll know for sure when you find one, because it simply just fits and makes a whole lot of sense.

I always told my daughter that looking for a mate is almost like applying for a job.  Yes, the "employer" has to want you, but you have to want them, too - it's a two-way partnership.  Will they provide you with longevity, with security, with safety?  Will they be understanding, and supportive, and encouraging?  Are they kind?  Will they make a good father?  Will they be faithful?  There are many things to consider when choosing the right mate for yourself - it's not all about stars and banners, although that is probably pretty important, too.  But first and foremost, do you like them as human beings, because you're choosing to spend an awful lot of your time with them if you don't.

That girl?  She won't have another chance to choose differently. Her family are forever broken, destroyed with mental images they will never erase from their minds.  Their hearts weep but will never find peace.  For those that believe our lives are fated, and laid out from the day we are born, I have but one word to say to you : really?

Our life is, as always, about the choices we make.

Choose wisely, people.  And practice safe sex.  And that starts a long time before you get to the bedroom.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015


I lived in this stunningly beautiful and diverse country for 27 years of my life, most of them my formative years.  I completed a high level of education there, enjoyed sunshine, and a lifestyle that only a few can dream of - not one of wealth, not in the financial sense, anyway - but one in abundance of great days spent playing frisbee on the beaches with friends, going for sundowners with friends, braais (bbqs) with friends, heading out for a meal at one of the thousands of restaurants with friends, riding off-road motorcycles, fishing in crystal clear rivers, camping in some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country.... the list goes on.  Did I mention it was with friends?  Oh yeah, that's because we are very social and like nothing better than gathering ourselves around a fire.

Was it dangerous?  Well, yes, it is pretty high in crime, but nothing ever happened to me. Why? Because I have something called Common Sense, and when I use it, I generally find that I remain quite safe.  It's a very handy commodity to own, and I keep mine close at hand.  Going alone into a township in the middle of the night does not belong in my Common Sense box.  But that's another blog...

However, I am gobsmacked at some of the ludicrous questions that I am often asked about South Africa, so I have decided to blog about it and to clarify - once and for all - for those that are interested in learning.  

Do you know where America is?  New York in particular?  
It's nowhere near there.

Yes.  We have elephant, lion and springbok - sometimes it can cause quite a traffic jam, those elephants are notoriously slow at zebra crossings.  But if you keep your wits about you, you may be lucky to flag down a cheetah or two, which could speed up the journey to your destination.

Yes, of course I know John!  Wow, what a small world it is.  Is he the one that lives in the third hut from the sun?  I'll send him a smoke signal. 

No.  We ate them all.

In Voortrekker days, when journeys were long and arduous, it was important to keep protein as long as possible.  The Voortrekkers discovered that you could preserve meat by coating it in a mix of salt and spices, and hanging it out to air-dry for a few days.  It is now a delicacy and common fare to all South Africans.

No.  It's as awful as smoked salmon.  We spend a lot of time preparing it and consuming it - we eat it as a penance for our sins.  We also export it all over the world in an attempt at World Domination.

Yes - the animals are getting quite out of control.  Baboons and monkeys in particular are nimble-fingered deviants of the highest order.  We shall have to shoot them all.

Um.  Because my parents are? 

No.  We just self-combust in intense heat, hence why there are less Whites than Blacks in South Africa.  

Yes.  We really do find it's easier than cars, and much cheaper.  We have very good motorways, three laned, which is quite suitable for elephants.  

We used to.  Now, due to load-shedding, I'm afraid we don't.  Candle sales are on the rise, and we are currently recruiting for wick manufacturers.

Our Minister told us he had good news and bad news about the economy.  

"The bad news is, the shit is going to hit the fan.  
The good news is, the fan will be off due to load-shedding, from 8am to 6pm."

No, no, not at all.  Some prefer caves.  Others still prefer tin shanties.  Some even have brick houses, although this sighting is rare.

No, we use buckets to catch the rainwater, which we then boil on an open fire.  
Most South Africans are immune to Eboli.

A few. 

No.  We prefer to complicate matters by carrying around all the cash we own.  
It encourages others to rob you. 

No.  The barbed-wire, electrified fencing around most houses is purely decorative.  

Yes.  But by New Year all our Christmas presents are stolen.

It all depends on the severity of the disability.  Some have hearing aids, others walking aids.

No.  They sleep a lot.

Only if you get a puncture.  Failing this, there is no reason to jack your car up. 

I do hope I have answered some of your pressing questions above.  Rest assured, your trip to South Africa will be nothing short of memorable, and a great way to lose weight, especially if you go diving with White Sharks.  

You will never forget your adventure to the Rainbow Nation, just don't expect any pot of gold at the end of it.  Jacob Zuma has already confiscated it....