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If You Should Die

If you should die
Please give me notice
So I can say my words of love

Gratitude or sorrow
May I let you know
All is well, as well can be
Coping even painfully

If you should die
To whom do I write
I am at peace despite all the odds
For it was given by God

Published in The Lark

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Sarah Everard’s Murderer

Earlier this year a writer on here wrote that what happened to Sarah Everard was not unusual. Oh how ignorant she was.

Only now that the case is over (bar the pain, grief, and loss, and complete breach of trust) do we have any detail more than a serving policeman murdered her.

Now it is public knowledge that Cousins made a fake arrest on Sarah, handcuffed her and drove her to woodland. There he raped and murdered her by strangulation with a belt or strap, and set her alight to burn. He used his Warrant Identification to arrest her for breaking Covid rules. He was not in uniform, but posed a plain clothes officer.

That Cousins pleaded guilty is only sparing her family the ordeal of a trial. They have had to bear what happened to her in gruesome detail for the last six or more months.

In the UK, unlike the US, police don’t kill people unless they present a clear and present danger. We trust the police and we are policed by consent. America has no concept of what that even is. So, the entire public trust was breached.

Never has a writer got it as wrong as Jessica WildFire did as she said it happens to most women. No, we don’t get handcuffed, raped, murdered, and set alight by the police. This was a tipping point. There have been terrible murders of women since, and nothing has been done to address misogyny. I carry a whistle now.

Women, please never walk with both ear buds in your ears. One is enough. You need to hear who is around you.

Imagine that it was your sister, your wife, your daughter. Unique in history. The details are unspeakable. Because a serving police officer did it. Not a psychopath, not a serial murderer, not the criminally insane.

The parents and sister have shown great dignity. But they speak of the gaping hole in their lives. Their revulsion of what was done to their beloved.

We must defuse misogyny in men, starting with our sons.

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Kindness, Empathy, Compassion

In society, people tend to speak of kindness, empathy, and compassion as if they are the same. They distinct and have identifiable qualities. Sometimes two go together. Even all three.

First, let’s clear something up. Being an empath serves no purpose. I was one and had to learn how to detach as it simply sucked the life out of me. Claudia Hammond, British psychologist and broadcaster, has stated that being an empath has no benefit. She runs The Kindness Project which examines the effect of kindness on our mental health. So if you are an empath please get help to detach from being a slave to your emotions. Codependence is often confused with empath, but we will not look at codependency here.

I have been ignored by empaths who think they are special but in fact they become useless to anyone and demand certain qualities in a prospective partner. No partner can be what they think they need and remain fulfilled in a relationship. They would be treading on glass with scant reward in return. An empath has a huge ego believing others who seek to help them to be idiots.

  • Kindness
    Kindness is anything from holding a door open to giving flowers, taking a parcel for a neighbor, offering to wait with a crying child until mommy appears and calling the police after ten minutes. Kindness takes many forms — thanking a menial job worker for what they do, to paying someones grocery bill or train ticket. No effort is required at all but the benefits to your mental health is invaluable.
  • Empathy
    The word “empathy” comes from the Greek word empatheia. The root of that word is pathos or feeling. The Greek prefix “em” means “in” or “to go into.” So, in empathy we go into the feelings of the other. Or, we recognise the feeling of another person and identify with them. This is important for someone who is grieving, made homeless, fallen over, injured etc. Empathy does not exhaust, but enables appropriate comforting or action like providing privacy in a public area. Nurses, most paramedics, etc, all use empathy to some degree in their jobs and kindness helps them be better at their chosen vocation. Doctors often lack empathy as their training is scientific and they see so many people. The Professor who saved my life was always kind, however, and I loved him like an uncle.
  • Compassion
    This requires effort. It is manifesting kindness and empathy while meeting a need. The parable of the Good Samaritan is of compassion. Ministering to the need of strangers or the unlovely, the angry, the dirty, and not letting the condition stop you. When I was researching my Ph.D. I worked in a recovery unit. I sat and listened to people who were still detoxing. They vomited in front of me, shook with DTs, or swore at me. My compassion enabled me to ignore this and carry on. Today, a young girl who declared herself missing was swearing at security staff who had to detain her to keep her safe because of her announcement. I was there taking flowers to the office as thanks for signposting me and and dealing with a difficult situation that I found myself in. I asked the girl to stop swearing so she then swore at me. I told her that as a mother I care about her and she must stop swearing. Eventually, I reprimanded her and she stopped. I explained that she was being kept safe because she had said she was a missing person, and until her parents responded she had to stay safe. I left but then noticed a group of young people who were behaving strangely were heading towards where she was. I headed back to alert the staff, and also told them to go away. I left saying the girl should be arrested at which point the chief of security said to her that if her behavior continued he would have to call the police.

Compassion does not always appear gentle. It is appropriate action at the point of need. The girl above got my compassion because I know she has not had good parenting. I have knelt beside a gravely ill man shouting his name to stop him dying.

Compassion has been afforded to me a few times. My Dad always was compassionate with few exceptions. No one is perfect. A Filipina cleaner had compassion to say hello to me when I had akinetic mutism. Finally, I was able to muster some energy and said hello in return. She squealed with excitement and thus my rehabilitation began.

I am hoping this article is helpful to understand what something is and what it is not. So many people use them interchangeably when they are separate deeds.

Published in PsycoLogically

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For My Sister

missing you still so much
my friend, my playmate, confidante
the gap cannot be filled, irreplaceable you

so bitterly cold so early that year
I am older now than the age you reached
my arms gladly held you until last breath

so much laughter me sitting on your lap
music you shared with me
the album I gave you so I could listen

did you realize I did that? and taking turns
at piano lesson first to watch Top of the Pops
you ate your sweets quickly, mine all week

in the tent I bit your back impulsively
you told tales, I never did, so mother bit my leg
sisters love and squabble, I loved you so

death stole from me, but you have rest
my tears come when they please
missing you is hard to bear, sleep well

Published in The Lark

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Panic Attacks

About a third of us may experience a panic attack at some point in our lives. The symptoms vary with each person but will include a racing, pounding heart. Other symptoms may include tingling sensations, numbness, and hyperventilation.

A panic attack is a flaw in the flight or fight mechanism that enables us to respond to accidents, fire, an attacker, etc. Some find that they lose sense of time and place. However they are not dangerous inherently.

Too much caffeine may trigger a panic attack, or a flash back to a painful memory. Bullying may cause it, or a shock like bad news, witnessing a horrific crime, verbal abuse, being in crowd, fast beat music. It is a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Justin Feinstein Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist and director of the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma says of panic attacks “It’s a normal physiological fear response happening at a totally inappropriate time.”

My aim here is to help anyone to end a panic attackWhen you feel your heart racing and your respiration increasing, put your hand with closed fingers over your mouth and nose. You can do this any place. You will then inhale carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide slows the heart down. Do it for about 20 seconds and repeat until your heartrate feels normal. Your breathing will slow down too. If people are near you, try to get their attention. It is best if you can sit.

If you are able keep your closed hand over your mouth until your heart is at a normal rate. You will not suffocate, normal air is drawn in through your fingers. A paper bag is ideal, but we don’t always have them to hand.

When your heart rate and breathing are normal, stay sitting until you feel calm and anxiety has passed. If you are going through a stressful time or if a panic attack comes out of the blue, please see your doctor.

You will now know how to help someone else. Note that plastic bags are not to be used ever. They may cause suffocation. A police officer handed me one once.

Published in PsychoLogically

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A trying day…

We change ourselves by choosing the positive

This morning I had to go back to the shop which repaired my laptop by replacing the keyboard. It’s the wrong keyboard. He wouldn’t even look. I cited the Consumer Act 2015 section 3.3. But no. I will go back tomorrow.

There was an incident at the Mall. I happened to be there. A young girl was being kept safe as she had declared herself a missing person. She was swearing and furious. I told her to stop using such foul language and told her she was vulnerable. At least she did calm down.

Much later I went to the shore. The sunset was starting. There was a food festival on the Quay full of people all drinking. Drunk parents were walking small children home while swigging 4 litre bottles of cider. Two drunk men approached me.

Then someone saw a small girl hanging out of a campervan window. To cut a long story short, I called the police. I am trained in safeguarding.

I took a long route home behind the Quay. I could not face the drunk crowds again.

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Ellen McAteer, Poet, Interview

When did you begin to write creatively?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. I remember wining a school poetry prize when I was six, but it tended mostly to be private journal writing, more for myself than anyone else. I didn’t begin to send stuff out to magazines till I finished university, and then it was mostly short stories, and not very often!

When did you first feel able to call yourself ‘poet’?

I didn’t start developing properly as a poet, to my mind, till after I had my kids. Before that I was more of a troubadour – performed poetry, and wrote songs and short stories, some of which were published, or played on the radio. I performed at festivals, joined a band – I always preferred performing with others, and was part of various poetry collectives, among them Hammer & Tongue in Oxford. Despite some publication success, I didn’t feel I could call myself a poet properly till I had a book out with a publisher, that I could hold in my hand. Although I won a pamphlet competition in 2013, I had previously only sent it out to one publisher, who rejected it. I didn’t send it out to another till five years later! That was Red Squirrel, who accepted it immediately, though Covid delayed publication for a while as it did for so many of us.


Where do you write, do you have a process?


While I like to work and perform collaboratively, the creative process begins for me alone, and on the move. I like to walk and cycle, and travel by train and bus – I don’t drive. Travelling frees something up in me. I can’t begin good work at a desk. Took me years to discover that! While on the move I write down lines, images, thoughts, ideas, and sometimes whole poems, but it is only through working with a group that I feel out where it wants to go. So having got my first draft, I run it past a poetry group (The King’s Poets in London, named for King’s Cross, at the moment), or a teacher or mentor, (past mentors have included Rachel Long and Alexander Hutchison) for feedback and suggestions. I then edit and rewrite, again alone, taking some suggestions, rejecting others – it is not a question of accepting everything, sometimes everyone can hate a line but you still know it has to be there! You might think why it didn’t fit for others though, so the edit may end up removing some of the context. Other poets also spot errors in grammar and spelling, problems with rhythm or sound, and when a line belongs in a different poem. I might start with a working title or first line that they rightly point out then needs to be dropped or changed – often poems often only really start several lines in, and once you have got where you’re going, those first lines need cutting even if you loved them. That is where the desk comes in, though it can just as easily be a kitchen table, and frequently is in my case. The important thing is to be alone again for the edit – tough for a working mother! The work still has to be true for you alone, poems can’t be written by committee. Then I try and keep sending stuff out, and once it is published it belongs to the world again – you will be amazed at some interpretations, and delighted by others, but it is not yours any more, and you have to let it go. So a real balance of public and private, introvert and extrovert, works best for me. The myth of the genius in the attic is just that – a myth. We do like to subscribe to it though. In fact, I soon found that all the writers I admire had some kind of group, fellow-poet, or editor that they tried stuff out with before they went public with it. Lots of reshaping, hammering and polishing is necessary to make a good poem. It also needs the heat of other people. Like a forge, it is part of the process

Here are three of Ellen’s favourite poems by her hand.

The  Magi       

A hard time we had of it -  

mothers, makers, wanderers -  

trying to mend broken homes  

by digging into the streets  

and binding the walls with ivy  

while the lead was ripped from the roofs  

and the floors sold from under us.  

  

Graft not wert a lite: tidying, painting,   

planting till home was grown; albayt; guriga.  

  

We’re all from elsewhere, the water that brought us  

thickening the walls of tinned-up houses.  

Our children play in a junkyard wilderness  

make clay of the past, dance in terracotta,  

carve gypsum roses, fashion a chair by the hearth.  

  

Found in Translation  

“Oh! Look at the spider, knitting his net,” you cried  
getting the alliteration, but shaking the cobwebs  
out of a language you feared you would never learn.  

Oh, never learn! It was as if your eyes were rinsed to childish clarity  
by tears you had wept while reading me poems of Palestine;  
as if your mouth made pictures, bright in primary colours  
of things I had only seen in shades of Glasgow grey.  

I can hear music in your voice though I struggle to understand the words  
as you read me “Bitaqat huwiyya”, and the music of your language  
leaks into mine, an Afro-Celt dance mix heard on the radio:  
weaving webs of words linked not by sense but sound; a mother-tongue  

that sounds like a mother, heard by a baby who cannot comprehend,  
but feels the voice as blood in its ears, the fury, laughter, rhythm, rhyme  
and my heart strings sing to the call of migration  
and try to fly to a homeland which I have never seen.  

Mourning in  Arduaine  

A cool mercury light  
water pulling sky to sea  
that soft grey sympathy  
of rain and stone 

Shuna, small and jagged  
echoed, with variations,  
by Luing  
Seil a faint fond shadow  
embracing them both  

each made of the same stone  
and not quite fitting  
like broken jigsaw pieces  
like family  

each an island  
holding to itself  
but part of an archipelago  

even when the rain  
tears you from the horizon  
I know you are there  

I can feel the shape of your shores  
through the currents that reach mine  

  

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My admiration for Tony Fox

I wrote my resignation to Tony, the Chairman, rather than my boss. I got such a wonderful response and an invitation to help improve SWAST.

He is a true leader. Having humility with his responsibilities and authority.

Few are like this. He is a quality leader and all my admiration has redoubled itself. I shall miss him so much.

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The Cruelty of some people…

Today, an unknown account left a very cruel remark on an article I wrote about living with hypoxia.

I could not believe my eyes.

A good friend betrayed me by not taking responsibility for his part in a terrible mess.

I sobbed in a friend’s shop.

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Riches

For my daughter

If hugs were leaves, I’d give you a forest!
If love was a planet, I’d give you the universe.
If friendship was life, I’d give you mine.

Whatever you need, if I have it, it’s yours
When you speak to me, it remains in my vault

Published in The Lark

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I am getting frail…

I feel myself gettng worse in health, respiratory failure, and the neurological symptoms. Today felt like autumn so I felt a sadness. I hope autumn is mild so my breathing stays good. Last winter was too cold and too long. So many chest infections.

I loved this warm September, Gardening, friends, two prize-winning articles, and my faith in God, gratitude, and finding joy in everyday things. I love my life.

To the woman who tried to fake an email from my former husband, a good try but he uses his second initial, so that was deleted immediately. Also, we have never once emailed each other. Nevermind. I know you keep trying.

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Aine MacOadha, Poet, died the day before yesterday. The poetry world has lost a gentle soul with fire in her. She touched my life with generosity and compassion.

Here is my interview with her.