UK and EU Split

Shock – or not, the UK have officially voted to LEAVE the EU.

Did the country vote LEAVE as a reaction to their emotional distaste? Probably; in some instances certainly yes. Yet, there were always to be benefits and drawbacks to either option; STAY or GO.

The IMPORTANT question is; what will the agenda NOW be? A case of MPs and the media impeding this massive, and important change for the future with fighting, squabbling and trading insults – I hope not.

Whatever anyone wanted the outcome to be I certainly hope everyone in a position of power will pull together to ensure the exit plan agreed, and future progress benefits the entire of the UK.

Make this about THE ENTIRE of the UK, and not merely just the financial world of London.

I just hope (there is that word again), this result is a mandate to deliver democracy, and will help everyone; not merely as a vehicle to push MP’s private agendas, and create waves of further angst and discontentment.

Whatever, it is not a simple matter or resolution, and I doubt it will become so anytime soon.



What not to do and recruitment


After many years of working with employers to update their training, development and recruitment processes, and of course as an applicant myself; I have come to realise just how clueless employers can be regarding these key elements.

In many cases employers do not give enough consideration to the needs and requirements of candidates going through the recruitment process, their newly appointed employees or even their current employees. Perhaps it is because employers don’t have a clear enough understanding of what these groups expect, need and appreciate from an employer.

Below are 10 examples of employer’s failings, lessons to be learnt and some solutions to the knowledge gap.

1)Exhaustive ‘wanted’ list on job descriptions; this has to be the top of the bill, and why, well because employers often have an exhaustive list of ‘wants’ from potential candidates. Employers ask that candidates are flexible and can learn numerous duties, but employers refuse to be flexible or savvy regarding what they require – everything is a ‘must’ and top priority. I often wonder who are employers trying recruit; a super hero who doesn’t have a life outside of their work.

In return for this ‘wanted’ list employers offer their candidates no induction process, no training analysis, no support or mentoring, no on-going training, no supervision or appraisal system and no benefits for working with them. They also have the audacity to add insult to injury by offering diabolic wages and hours as a great selling point; bearing in mind these are the jobs which hold more responsibility than simply working as a shelf stacker in a superstore.

Employers please take note; candidates are not to be employed because you as an employer want a general dog’s body about the workplace. It may be a case of an employer’s job market, but how about standing out from the crowd and offering something of worth to candidates. Make it worth their while to apply for your role, and also consider their work-life balance too when you formulate job descriptions. How many times has this got to be reinforced; happy employees are more likely to stay, and also with something of worth being offered you will attract higher calibre candidates not just the desperate.

2)Transferable skills: apparently no longer is there such a thing as transferable skills or the ability to learn and adapt. Regardless of how much or how little a candidate has done in their working career I always taught my life and employment skills students that skills matter. They can work just as well in a retail role as they can in the building profession. Communication, attention to detail, customer relations, problem solving and team work – are all transferable; and yet unless you have worked in one sector and one type of role for at least 5 years none of this seems to matter to employers. I wonder why they can’t seem to attract and retain creative and adaptable staff who can actually think outside of the box.

3)The over reliance of niche qualifications, but no help from employers in achieving them: certain qualifications such as a CIPD (a HR qualification) are extremely expensive to attain as an individual. What is often required is that the company employing the staff member contributes either all or some of the yearly fees. Even so, most HR positions regardless of how lowly require this qualification; even if the employer in question wouldn’t dream of funding it for their employee. There could be an ideal candidate streets ahead of someone possessing this one qualification, but they have little hope of securing a job without it. The employer and employee therefore are missing out on an opportunity to invest in one another.

This then relates back to employer flexibility and their exhaustive ‘wanted’ lists. Perhaps investing in office based training; similar to how things used to be done years ago would prove more beneficial on the long term. Proving that employers are Investors in People as a reality rather than a mere piece of mouldy paper they hang upon their office walls; proof is in the action not the words. It is called investment for a reason, and someone in business should be familiar with this term; you won’t get anything unless you are willing to give something, and perhaps even risk something in return. Buy in to those you want to buy in to you – simple.

4)Application forms; this format in general can be tricky and monotonous. One size does not fit all, but I think it could. If anyone has spent any time completing these boring and often useless things the key to them is loving repetition. Often similar if not the same questions are asked over and over again; for example contact number, skills and abilities, where have or do you work now. One question and one answer to that question is sufficient, but a better solution would be an application version whereby the majority of a CV can be migrated and pasted into the document; this would be a time saver for the job hunter! Seriously though, employers really need to consider and revise the format and the structure of these things. Considering also the appearance of such documents and ensuring they are professional; odd layout, random fonts and limited space for answers is just messy.

5)Recruitment: nothing annoys me more than bad recruitment. OK, employers aren’t necessarily recruitment experts, and yet they should be. If this process isn’t professional, organised and informed then why would a candidate want to work for you? It signifies your company doesn’t know what it is doing; and we all know how important those first impressions are. Small things do matter and are proven to make the difference.

Key information missing from the job advert such as; wages, hours, location, when the closing dates is and when the interviews will take place is just odd; it isn’t a guessing game and leaving this crucial info off the description isn’t good enough. You want a candidate with excellent communication skills; well demonstrate yours – candidates are not psychic.

Another confusing element for candidates; mismatched job titles which do not relate or describe the actual role they are applying for. Is the job what it says it is, or will it metamorphose into something else along the way? Candidates may enjoy a challenge, but they also like to know where they will stand in a few weeks’ time too; keep them informed from the first.

Expecting candidates to attend an interview or undergo recruitment tests without ample prep time; fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Pressurising candidates isn’t a fair game to play, it only creates unnecessary stress and uncertainty, and no one shines their brightest under these conditions.

Expecting candidates to be able to give notice in their current employment ASAP when often one months’ notice is customary; this is again an unfair expectation meeting the needs of an employer not the candidates. If time is of the essence the employer should have begun the recruitment process sooner. As an employer you should know your staff leavers and your staff requirements; if you have been left understaffed for weeks it is your fault as you must have seen it coming.

Reference requests for an inordinate amounts of referees. I have seen employers stipulate up to 6 referees, when perhaps candidates can only produce the usual required maximum of 2 due to their work experience. Not everyone retains communication with their previous employers, and people do move in and out of roles, not to mention are made redundant. 6 referees may be asking the impossible, what do you think? Perhaps as an employer you could use your judgement, because even if candidates can only provide 2 referees these maybe the best quality, plus it doesn’t automatically signal that without 6 referees your candidate is Ted Bundy’s twin in disguise.

6)Equal Opportunities monitoring forms: I hate these. I feel they aren’t transparent at all merely a sneaky tool to discount vast numbers of people from the application process; “We don’t discriminate, but please tell us your intimate details such as whether you have a disability and your sexual orientation so we can see if you’re the right sort of person for us”.

7)Interviews: badly organised interviews create yet more negative impressions, but also they won’t fulfil their primary objective; to secure the best candidate. Employers, who allow staff to perform an interview and quite clearly they shouldn’t; because they have no interview skills at all isn’t a good start to the process either.

Odd questions: Asking odd questions such as; “How are your communication skills” – when the interviewer asking this clearly doesn’t possess any themselves. This is something I have seen over and over; why ask a candidate for something you as an interviewer or employer do not possess? Another odd question not to ask during interview; “Are you suitable for this job; based on your CV you are over-qualified”.  A) This is not a bad thing and can bring a new perspective to the role or new skills into a company; it makes me wonder if the interviewer asking this one is actually insecure about their own skill level. B) The employer obviously hasn’t read the candidates CV before the interview; bad prep! Either way; the candidate is there at the interview because they actually want the job. As an employer ensure you have the best interviewers interviewing the candidates.

Another complete discourtesy is when the interviewer pays no attention to the candidate’s responses or their presentation. This is plain and simple rude behaviour. Why ask a candidate to interview if you as an employer haven’t intended to give them a fair chance? It might have been a long day, they might be the last candidate but this type of behaviour is unforgivable on every level, and demonstrates your lack of merit as an employer.

Give them the info: Another no is allowing a candidate to leave the interview without clarifying their duties, salary, benefits, work hours and also the response time for the interview decision to be made. Candidates may feel unsure if they should ask any of this information at interview, so as an employer you should make these things very clear to them; keep them informed.

Providing zero feedback: Employers should always provide feedback to their unsuccessful candidates, if they don’t it is sloppy and insincere; stinking of a nonsense reason for not hiring that candidate. An email won’t cut the mustard either, call each candidate who attended the interviews and explain why they were unsuccessful. They took the time to be there and to prepare so you should show some common courtesy to them.

Another element to consider regarding the interview process is; stop setting candidates up to fail. Remember it might have been 100 years since your last interview, but the thing is to put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Interviews are stressful and unnatural situations; how often do you sit in a room with complete strangers and tell them your whole life history, er, never! Have some respect it takes courage and effort to sit there and often be grilled by interviewers with a sense of humour by-pass. Have some thought for those who are trying to impress you.

8)Nepotism: this can be related to the interview process also; often it isn’t a case of what you know but who you know. I have seen many well suited and qualified candidates being refused a job, with very little understanding as to why – making me wonder whether the more a candidate has to offer the less likely they are to secure a job. First impressions you might say, but I call this face fits and it can refer to a case of nepotism. The employers colleague, friend, relative, neighbour already has the job and the interview process was a formality to ensure employment laws are not breached. Remember that the best suited candidate, IE the one who matches your requirements as set out on the job description and person specification is the one you should be hiring. Regardless of whether you like their hairstyle or not; otherwise this is a breach of employment law, and is called discrimination.

I have been told of many stories that point to nepotism. Someone I knew secured a job when a long serving staff member decided to leave that particular company and go elsewhere. This particular person then returned within about a month to ask for their job back, because they hated their new job. The person I knew was then turfed out under some nonsense excuse and the ex-staff member walked right back into their job. Again they were working through their probationary period, and couldn’t prove that their dismissal was due to the other staff member returning and asking for their job back, but it was the reason and everyone who worked there knew it.  I think that this is the biggest waste of a candidate’s time and effort, not to mention rude, patronising and completely unfair.

9)Probation period: the first 6 months of any new employment is often termed the probationary period. Candidates who become new starters have to diligently prove their suitability for the role within this period. Fine, OK, but it is very often that the employer holds all the cards during this period.

If the candidate/ new employee asked all the right questions during their interview regarding; their duties, place of work, colleagues, team, support structure and training – all the better. Yet, if they didn’t receive the absolute truth from the interviewers; any new starter may find that they are stuck in a role that isn’t what was sold to them. Yes it is a case of false representation, but what can a new starter do other than look for another job? Well, not much. If the new starter was caught out as having lied on their application or during their interview they would be fired for it, but when the shoe is on their foot a new starter has no avenue of recourse. Why, because they don’t have many rights during their probationary period (even if they are a member of a union). Basically it is a case of tough luck.

Whether the new starter is treated or spoken to badly, given more duties or different duties than they thought or basically shoved in a room alone to get on with it; no one cares. An employer can also concoct any excuse during this time to remove a new starter from their payroll, and if a new starter becomes too rebellious this could occur through performance management; “You weren’t suitable for the role because of blah, blah, blah”.

A new starter, whether in post one day or one week will be subject to the same standards, rules and regulations as any other employee, and will of course pay their tax and national insurance; therefore I believe a new starter should be also protected from unscrupulous employers who may take advantage of them and use and abuse them. As probationary period is a strange no man’s land for employment rights, I wonder how many people have encountered horrendous treatment but let it slide; A) to save the hassle, B) to save their reference, C) because no one cared enough to actually deal with the incidence and how could they prove their rights were being abused in any case? It is just one pf those things and comes with the territory of probationary periods.

Regardless of the length of time an employee has been on the payroll, their rights should be the same as any other employee to ensure such abuses don’t occur so easily, and don’t go unaddressed and unpunished.

10)Providing an ex-employee with a reference: I believe an employer should only provide a good, but impartial reference for an employee. I know that by law this should be the case, but the ex-employee has no forewarning regarding the questions a potential employer may ask an existing one. Also they have no say over how or what will be discussed about them in what might be deemed to be confidential terms.

For example; how well an employee performs in a team, what type of person are they, what is their sick leave record like? Such questions may at first sight appear innocuous, but what if an employer has an axe to grind with their ex-employee? Will the employer then tell the truth about the ex-employee, and if not how would the ex-employee know what lies are being told and then prove them to be lies? Some might refer to the training and development the employee underwent, such as supervision and appraisals, but there are still some companies out there who don’t have these processes in place. So, where is the proof that what the employer has to say is of more credence and relevance than the ex-employee? Prove what you say to be the truth.

I believe that anything personal IE time off work with depression, surgery and personal leave for family death and so on should be up to the ex-employee to relate to their new employer. It is after all personal information of a sensitive nature, and often relates only to a one off time period. If it is depression; most cases I have come across are in fact due to work related stress incidences. Therefore once the ex-employee has left their current workplace and are feeling happier and more valued, this is unlikely to reoccur. Although even if it does, depression is recognised under employment law as a disability; even if many employers don’t regard it as such. Given the fact that this illness is on the increase, many employers do little to help employees with this; depression remains frowned upon as a sign of weakness. What utter callous nonsense.

It is the case that one person’s impression of another person can vary; therefore believing an employer just because they are an employer is unfair. It ensures the employer remains in a position of power over an employee, and can abuse this as they see fit. The reference should be simple; when an employee worked there, what role they did and their skills – end of.

To sum up:

The recruitment process is often a difficult one for both candidate and employer. What I too often see are guides for how candidates can improve their chances in this process, but I believe based on my experiences that employers need guides also; especially when they often have little clue about the processes, how to relate to or interact with candidates. The key is to learn and then revise the process; create solid job descriptions and job titles, ensure interview questions match the role, get in the best interviewers to interview (train them with the skills if necessary), keep candidates informed at every step, treat them with respect and acknowledge them, be transparent and provide reasons and proof for everything to ensure no candidate can excuse you of being unfair because of your approach.

                      Any questions regarding your recruitment processes? Let me know and I am happy to answer them.






Big Brother Is Watching You

I expected to face some scrutiny upon returning to the UK and gaining any form of employment. However, what I have come up against during this last week has taken the biscuit. It has surpassed everything I thought possible when I consider security checking processes. It has made me question just how much Big Brother does watch us, and how much Big Brother would like to watch us if legally they could.

Basically the main issue I am facing is the fact I lived abroad for the last 3 years. Here in the UK it seems that the system, and those in control of it, won’t be happy with anything they can’t fully qualify or quantify. If they feel they are unable to track me from my first day living abroad to my last, they aren’t happy. They immediately feel suspicious that they are dealing with a criminal or a terrorist.

Now I have provided all the information required of me, everything necessary to prove I am not a criminal or a terrorist. This information is exhaustive, never ending and ever changing. I have forwarded references from the UK and abroad, proof of addresses for the last 5 years, photographic ID, passport number, National Insurance Number, my foreign residency details, my overseas police check, gone through the process of completing a UK police check, provided certificates and verifying emails, even 3 years bank statements with explanations of deposits and declaration documentation.

Yet, regardless of all this I still haven’t received an all clear that they have enough proof to state that I am who I am and that I am not a criminal or a terrorist.

What more can I do? What else can I produce? Perhaps they may wish to polygraph me or send me to a detention centre and beat the living daylights out of me until they are satisfied I’m not a threat to the UK!!!

I am a UK national too; born and bred in the UK! I have lived, worked, been educated and paid my dues to the UK, but the moment I decided to relocate because of better opportunities, and then I decided to return, it was as though that this act alone automatically made me a criminal.

I am angry beyond belief that these checks are so intrusive and demand such confidential information (bank account details for one). I have jumped over their every hurdle and still may not be cleared for work in my chosen field, which is at the moment within the financial sector. I have expressed my concerns, but to no avail. I have just had to smile and face the fact that this background checking company hold my entire life at their fingertips. I also have no real guarantees that the information I have provided will be secure and confidential; that I won’t have some disgruntled employee selling on all my confidential details to the highest bidder

This makes me wonder what will happen if I do fail!? I state now, there is NO reason for me to fail. I have given them every piece of evidence as required to prove that I am not a threat, not a criminal and not a terrorist – two police checks surely are sufficient enough for this?! Ironically, if I wanted to work with children and young people, I am now officially cleared to do so. I am fully security checked and Okayed; minus the confidential intrusion and masses of information required for a job with money!!! The welfare of people is obviously not as important as other people’s money!!

So, how much more can Big Brother demand of me before I scream and tell them to get lost and keep their job?! I’m not sure. All I know is that if I do fail the security checking processes it poses a massive question as to the success and validity of their actual processes, and also I am left wondering what unjust repercussions that black mark will have for my continued career? I am left wonder if the worst does come to the worst, not only will I be left without my promised job, but how will I then reverse that wrongly received condemnation and prove I am innocent and not a criminal or a terrorist?

This background checking company basically have my life in their hands, and hold my future too. If they condemn me how can I say they were wrong, how can I then prove I am innocent? Where would my authority come from to challenge them when it is their purpose to prove people’s innocence??

For me it makes me sick to think that one company has that much power over any one person’s life. They are after all fallible and can either way make mistakes. It proves to me that Big Brother does call the shots and that the little people, the decent, honest and hard-working will always come off the worst against such unstoppable and rubber stamped force.

This is how the innocent are treated, God help the guilty!

I can only sit and wait and hope that all of this ends, and that by tomorrow I receive my much deserved security clearance.

If not, I have a whole new fight on my hands, which will lead me into uncharted territories.

This Girl Can

This girl can

I have now relocated back to the UK. I have left my old life in Madrid behind me with plenty of fond memories stored away for reflection.

As sad as I am to be beginning again away from a city I called home for over three years, I realise change is inevitable and life goes on. One chapter closes and another one opens.

I was fully prepared to make my return to the UK though. Months before my arrival here I had been applying for work, and also returned last year to complete volunteer work and gain UK references.

Even so it has been a upheaval. It is a shock to the system and emotionally I have felt uncertain, sad and lost. Not to mention that now I am here I am currently living out of suitcases in a hotel!! Although it is a nice hotel, with a fabulous gym and restaurant, it isn’t home. Until I find a place to rent, as my house is now tenanted, I won’t feel as settled as I would like. I miss my things; everything I own remains in storage, and I have no car. Here I need a car!!! I am relying on unreliable and terrible public transport in what is always a gloomy and cold UK winter!!

I certainly don’t need my sunglasses here!!

I have also discovered that job hunting in the UK has become far more difficult than I recall. As I have lived abroad I forgot how much the UK (powers that be), like to be able to track their citizens whereabouts.The need for four plus references, consecutive references, personal references, recent experience, ability to do jobs without training, skills have to match exactly to every job applied for, full employment history track, police checks, address histories, credit checks, ID checks and so on and so on is exhaustive. Paperwork galore to prove I wasn’t some criminal Drug Lord on the run in Madrid, or whatever else!!

I have come to realise how many barriers exist for people who actually are seeking work in the UK. I wonder just how anyone who has lived abroad, is foreign, been unemployed or can’t prove their history ever finds any work here. Especially when every job application requires something new as proof of who and what you are.

Sometimes a person just can’t prove their every movement in life, sometimes a person doesn’t have that ability!!!!! Life isn’t so smooth or easily categorised and dissected!!!

On the upside, I have found a job. I have gone through the exhaustive application process and personal / police checks. I now hope, and keep fingers crossed, that everything I have done (checks included) will be sufficient enough to allow me to actually begin the job as agreed in March.

I must admit I am looking forward to being able to regain my own financial independence. Just working in a stable environment whereby I move towards something and progress makes me feel more settled and optimistic about being here.

Oh, and because of the fabulous hotel gym, I have taken my fitness routine to a new level. Getting up early and hitting the gym is actually helping me feel happier, mentally and emotional ready, more positive and allowing me to hone my focus regarding the chaos of everything else going on around me. I actually think I prefer the gym now to dancing and walking, the only thing missing is my boxing classes!!!

So, all that has been done and dusted and now I have to wait and see what the next few months ahead will bring for me and my life. I hope that all will be good, end well and that life will be kind while I keep thinking “This girl can” regardless of what is thrown in my direction!!

Death Becomes Him

Today my Taid (Welsh for Grandfather ) passed away.

The last time I saw my Taid was when he was in hospital, and that was a few months ago. I returned to Madrid thinking he’d be soon well again, and start behaving himself by taking his medications as he should have been, and taking care of himself as he should have been and so on. Yet, he refused to do so (stubborn until the very end). Consequently his health deteriorated fast, to the point where he was taken in and out of hospital, collapsing at home and so on.

My Nain (Welsh for Grandmother), his wife, died three years ago, and to be truthful my Taid never recovered from her death. He didn’t think she would die when she did, but she did wasting away in a hospital bed. After that, Taid was never the same person again. Then again who is after they lose someone they love?

When my Mum told me Taid had died I was sitting in my Spanish class, and it was a shock. I began to cry and promptly left the class to return home.

I called my parents. I spoke to my Dad first (my Taid was his Father), and true to my Dad’s style he was upbeat, his only concern was to enquire about me and what I’m up to. In contrast, and very normally, my Mum was emotional. She was worried about me because at the moment I’m alone in Madrid, upset and stuck with the knowledge I’m not there for them at this moment.

I asked if Taid had company when he died, and my Mum said he was alone; by the time everyone had been informed (it’s a big family), and everyone arrived at the hospital, my Taid had already passed. Not even a Nurse by his side. I think that upset me more, to know that he was alone when he did eventually pass, and that for days he had been unconscious and unaware of who was there or what was happening. Yes, he had suffered before his death, and wasted away in a similar fashion to that in which my Nain did. And, in many ways I am thankful I never had to see that happen to such a strong man, as those things stick with you and over-ride the real way a person should be remembered.

Though my Taid was expected to die, death in whatever form is never really OK, or explainable.

And now it is complicated.

My Taid was a stern man, he was no Angel. He was Irish Catholic, spoke Gaelic and had been brought up tough on a farm in Southern Ireland. Try and ask him what his life was like, and he would act as though the question had never been asked, he despised talking about the past, about the family he left behind at 15 because his own Father sold him off as labour to a neighbouring farmer.

He ran away at 15 from his tyrannical Father, but felt guilt for leaving his loving Mother behind. Taid went over to Wales, settled there, found work and then eventually met my Nain. They were married for an age and had eight children together.

The saddest story is that what my Taid endured growing up made him hard, and angry. Sadder still was that he then inflicted his own unresolved emotions and past on his own children. In short, allowing that cycle of Hell to perpetuate.

Luckily for me, my Dad married my Mum. She helped show my Dad what it was to be loved and to feel love, to see what a family should be, to realise that kids should be seen and heard, and that interaction, expressing emotion and being nurturing is normal and not a weakness.

In fact, my Dad has a great nature. He is the most placid person I know, the kindest and the fairest. He might not always say too much, but then he was brought up not to be a talker, as he is a man, but what he does say, does count and makes infinite sense.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say my Dad is the last of a generation who really are men.

So, for all my Taid did or could have done, he still made my Dad. My Taid, like my Dad is part of me and I am part of them and proud to be. I don’t judge my Taid’s actions, if I’d endured what he had growing up, who knows what person I’d have become.

Here’s to my Taid (Irish whiskey in hand); I love you, and although I don’t recall you ever telling me that you loved me, I always knew that you did. God bless.

The Life Of Crime

Yet another young man has lost his life, while another two are seriously injured, after yet another gang related, youth related, crime related dispute.

It was reported that 300 youths clashed on the streets of Birmingham, in the UK. It was a street battle, which led to an onslaught of violence. Over what? No-one knows, because there is no real excuse for such disgusting behaviour.

I know such crimes are not exactly scarce or unusual. Across the world people commit, are involved in or victims of such violence, but what makes me mad are the reasons the perpetrators give for doing such heinous and unnecessary acts.

The fact is that these ‘kids’ rattle off their excuses as though that alone is enough to supplicate the listeners. These young people stuck in gang culture, wrapped up in and warped by violence think they have carte blanche in their communities. Well, there is no excuse for little kids (that is what they are mentally), running amok and acting tough like wannbe gangsters.

They say they commit violent crimes because; its their culture, they are bored as there is nothing for them to do where they live, that their gang is their family, that violence is territorial, it is retaliation, it is initiation, it is OK because others do it, it is because the police are corrupt and crack down on their neighbourhoods and their illegal activities.

I say; so what!!! Quit whining, get over it and grow up!!! Can’t they hear how stupid and immature they sound!!

What do these ‘kids’ expect exactly? Mob rule! Do they honestly think that they can do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want and face NO consequences? Yeah, of course and we all live like that don’t we, in the REAL world!

They think they have a right to be violent, well let us just consider in more detail their excuses for their actions;

They talk about culture, but what has culture got to do with violent crime? Nothing. What is culture; the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. So, what has culture got in common with inane violent crime? What is so good about the destruction violence brings that anyone would want to celebrate it, and pass it down as some gift to the next generation?

Culture = no excuse

They talk of territorial disputes; what are they dogs? What is this a turf war? I’d like them to take that ethos to the front lines of Iraq or Syria (or anywhere else going through conflict), and see the reaction they’d get from the soldiers risking their lives for such things there. Perhaps if they want to ‘play’ with guns, they should be drafted into the army and see how much they like playing with their little toys then.

Will these ‘kids’ then realise life isn’t a film, it isn’t the wild west, they aren’t Clint Eastwood? Will they see how pathetic they are?

Territorial = no excuse

These ‘kids’ say they are bored and have nothing to do. If they want something to do then why don’t they stay in school, go home and learn something, help their families, do volunteer work. OR, why don’t they actually go out into the world and create something to do that is positive, instead of destructive.

Bored and nothing to do = no excuse

They say others commit violence. Does that mean it is OK then? Errr, no! So someone puts their hand in the fire and they’ll follow suit to do the same? If that is the case, and they follow like sheep, then maybe they ought to be under the care of a social worker or carer. They’re obviously not able or stable enough to look after themselves like they think they are! Perhaps they have some deficiency preventing them from seeing the difference between right and wrong! Other people might do something wrong, but that doesn’t mean that each individual isn’t fully responsible for their own reactions and appalling behaviours. Plus, there are many people out there doing good in the world; funny how these ‘kids’ never follow in these people’s footsteps instead.

Others commit violence = no excuse

They say that the gang is their family. Great family. These ‘kids’ choose to be part of a ‘family’ that would as easily dispose of them as they do with other people. They choose to be loyal to, and follow blindly, even bigger fools than they themselves are. Great.

Gang is family = no excuse

They say that the police are corrupt and crack down on their activities unnecessarily. I’m not naive enough to think that the police can’t be corrupt, I know they can be, but in general the police are trying to uphold the laws we all live by, so we can live. If you commit a crime then you should face the consequences from the law. You can’t think you’ll get away with it, be allowed to get away with it, why should you!!! The police are tough for a reason, because the criminals, the gangs and the violence is tough and has no place in a decent society.

Police corruption = no excuse

To summarise then, basically violence and gang crime has got nothing to do with the ridiculous and petty excuses these ‘kids’ make. What their violence is really all about is greed, jealousy, hate and the fact they are lazy. They want what they see others having and working for. Well, I have news for you disenchanted, disenfranchised youth; we all have to get on and live, we are all bored, and we have to work for a living to get what we want (whether that makes us the fools or not).

That kiddywinks is what we grown-ups call life! And guess what, we don’t all run around with guns and knives demanding we are given things, like we deserve it, we are owed it, because we are bored or whatever else!

Why do these ‘kids’, these criminals think they are owed anything anyway? What have they done to deserve anything? What have they given to the world in their short years except violence, except crime, except destroying good communities, making people live in fear and misery? Ummmm, let me think – NOTHING!

What gives these thugs the right to act like they do, and believe that they are above the law? Why do they think they should run wild like complete fools, disturbing decent citizens who live in peace and don’t kill one another?

To boot, these ‘kids’ in gangs are cowards, cowards hiding behind guns, knives and gangs. Without the gang, without their weapons, they are nothing and have nothing. Basically they are too afraid to do anything that removes them from their comfort zones, from their little friends, their little areas controlled by the gang. They are weak, angry, uneducated, insecure, afraid little kids playing at being cool and tough.

It doesn’t impress me, it doesn’t make me feel afraid, it just makes me angry that we as a society tolerate it all in silence. When are we going to put an end to this? How far can this go until we all just snap, stand up and finally take back the reins?

These are our children, the next generation of society, so what are we going to do about it?

Contraceptive Pill And Fertility Fears

Going on the contraceptive pill could damage a woman’s future fertility, at least temporarily, a new study at a Copenhagen University Hospital has revealed.

To say I am not surprised is an understatement. I made this link between the pill and decreases in fertility years ago, without having any scientific training!

For me it is pure logic; if a man takes Steroids on a long term basis, what happens to his natural hormone levels, to his ‘man-hood’? Well, we have all heard the horror stories of those body builders who end up having the testosterone levels of nine year old boys, shrivelled up bits and bobs and so on and so on.

So, why would taking the female hormone in its many contraceptive guises cause a different result for some women? Why wouldn’t the unnatural pill hormones mess up, decrease or eradicate the natural production of female hormones, the natural biology of a woman?  

I am not against the contraception pill by the way – I agree with it whole heartedly, but, it doesn’t get the medical spotlight I think it ought to. Women don’t necessarily know enough about the hormones they ingest daily to prevent pregnancy. 

As contraception pills and devices are seen as an everyday thing, safe and trialled and tested, a thing which has been in use in one format or another (legally) since the 1960’s, so common place they HAVE to be innocuous. Therefore the many health risks associated with contraceptive pills are not really talked about, not after the initial first chat about your contraceptive options with your medical practitioner. The risk to long term fertility once you stop taking the pill is NEVER mentioned.

The only factors regularly discussed at 6 month pill ‘check-ups’ are blood-pressure levels and of course your weight. Yet, other serious factors that can occur as a result of taking these pills from a young age, when your body hasn’t really fully developed into a woman, what happens when you ingest unnatural hormones that meddle with your bodies internal mechanisms, and precious endocrine system, are never mentioned.

As long as you are your perfect weight and your blood pressure is OK, then you get the pill!!! If you have a lapse Doctor they might not even check that, nor even if you smoke. If you smoke some pills can cause allergic reactions, this happened to a friend of mine and I told her to revisit her Doctor as she was on the wrong pill, for a smoker! Her Doctor hadn’t even thought to ask her this vital question before dishing out the pill to her!

I actually took the pill for a good few years. I also suffered from stomach complaints throughout the time of taking the pill, the connection between the two was never made of course. I had my Gall-bladder removed about 2 years after I stopped taking the pill, but it had been failing me for a good few years before this time. Anyway, I was asked recently about the side-effects for the pill I had been prescribed, but I couldn’t remember. So, I decided to do some research, and wouldn’t you know it Gall-bladder disease was one of the side-effects!!

I was NOT aware this side-effect, I had NEVER been made aware of it!! If I had been aware I would have been fully and properly informed, and able to take full control of what ‘medication’ I decided to ingest. I would have reconsider my options too, as the pill I had been placed upon was obviously not the right one for me. I had a family history of Gall-bladder disease, but I had never been asked about this by my Doctor.

I felt outraged that I had not been told this was a side-effect of the pill I had taken daily for years!!

So, what of fertility then? Well, if the Gall-bladder can be affected by the pill then surely anything can be!

What I want to know is why women’s bodies are treated as though they are not their own? Why are we treated like pieces of meat by so called medical professionals? Why is the full information not being disclosed to us? Why are women not being allowed to take control of their own medical care/choices? Is it just because the contraceptive pill is common place and seen as the norm in medical care, or is it because no-one cares what happens to a woman’s body, as she is just a woman?

Thinking about fertility I have asked my Doctor about my own hormones. I thought after years taking the pill I would be bound to have more dormant issues. I was told though, that my ‘complaints’ were normal. That getting some teenage troubles (like spots, severe period pains or whatever else) in my twenties or thirties could happen, especially if I hadn’t had these troubles when I was a teen! It was perfectly normal for hormones to alter, to do weird things to my body. I wanted to be offered a test though, to check, to put my mind at ease, but testing for hormones seems to be something they aren’t keen on doing, unless of course I wanted to get pregnant, then they would have to test me. I was as usual told to shut up and put up. 

So, I am non the wiser regarding my hormone levels or fertility (post contraceptive pill), just like most women out there.

Has my fertility been decreased or eradicated or whatever else? Have my hormone levels been damaged? Who knows. I will just have to take my chances and see what happens. As for now, I don’t wish to get pregnant, so until I do, my hormones will mean very little to the medical world!

Not so reassuring is it. 


Associated articles:








I’m Not Made Of Money!

I’m not made of money, but I think I ought to be!

Now I am a Landlord it seems money is all anyone wants from me.

As you may recall, from previous posts, I have placed my prior home upon the rental market. The reason for this is because rental is the only valid choice open to me. I am no longer residing in the UK, therefore it was either rent the house or take my chances with the uncertain sales market. I couldn’t leave the house empty and languishing waiting for a buyer, running the risk of weather damage and worse occurring in my absence.  

Yet, I am discovering that property rental is not for the impoverished and humble individual, such as I am!

I am not a wealthy property developer who owns many houses that turn over great profits, I have one property and that used to be my home. I make no profit from the rental process, in fact, I lose money. Between the initial costs to begin the rental process, the Rental Agency fees, the fact I remain financially responsible for the property and even pay a portion of the mortgage (still), means that I have to find money every month just to have the ‘privilege’ to rent my own house out!   

Only today I was informed that I have to fork out another £250 for an Electrical Inspection. Now this inspection was not supposed to be obligatory I.E enforced by any written law, yet, this little loop hole is worded in such a way, it might as well be a written law. Without this inspection and a certificate to prove to the Rental Agency all is well with my home electrics, I won’t be able to rent my house out (what a surprise), the Local Authority can fine me (which they would as they are money making sharks), and my Landlord Insurance will be null and void (any excuse for an Insurance Company not to pay out on a claim)!

So, all in all it is fantastic news – yet again there is more money going out and no money coming in!

All of these little inconsequential loop holes mount up to become one large dent in my bank account balance. It therefore seems that to be a landlord, I do have to be a wealthy Donald Trump type property tycoon, as these little loop holes all cost money! They maybe in place to keep Landlords on a leash, to ensure that we are all reputable, abiding by the rules and of course protecting our tenants, yet it is landlords like me who suffer most from these loop holes. We who are scrupulous, we who abide by the rules and laws, we who don’t have massive property portfolios which turn over vast profits, we who don’t know how to dodge the rules and laws to line our own pockets suffer from the endless silly loop holes, because we haven’t the money to keep forking out to cover their requirements.

I am pretty angry about it all. Just because I am a Landlord doesn’t mean I am either rich or unscrupulous! 

Now I am wondering what will happen if my home electrics are found to be ‘unsafe’. Of course, there will be more money at stake. Not to mention the re-plastering and re-decoration costs also part and parcel of having to replace the electrics!!

What makes this worse and made me spit blood, was the fact that they also require me to pay for installation of fire alarms (connected to the mains). This is to protect the tenant;

I asked: ‘What is wrong with the two fire alarms I already have in place’?

Reply: ‘Oh, they aren’t good enough because they are battery operated’.

I said: ‘Erm, they still do the same job as a mains fitted alarm, they were fitted by the Fire Department’!

The reason for having these electrical alarms fitted, is basically as the tenant can’t be trusted to replace the batteries in the alarms we currently have fitted. OMG! What is this exactly, a baby sitting venture? Did the tenant forget their brain in the last property they resided in? Why can’t they take the responsibility on board to replace two measly batteries? I mean if they aren’t capable of that, then please God don’t rent them my home!!

Not to mention the fact that now I have signed the rental agreement with the agency, I have actually lost all my rights to state who and who doesn’t rent my property out. As long as a potential tenant passes the agencies vetting procedures (which are no doubt sub- standard anyway), then basically anyone can rent my home! I find this bizarre. Considering I am, and always will be financially and legally responsible for the house with or without a tenant in-situ, and the shit hits my fan and no one else’s if anything goes wrong, I find this stipulation in a legally binding contract as the biggest insult!

So I am left wondering what next? Or more specifically, what next must I pay for?

There has been; a Gas Inspection (not cheap), Landlord Insurance (not cheap), Boiler/heating Insurance (not cheap), PAT testing (not cheap), an Energy Certificate (not cheap), Rental Agency fees (not cheap), an Electrical Inspection (not cheap), tax and mortgage documentation to complete and organisation of the necessary paperwork (a complete nightmare), sale of my furniture (messing about), house clearance (stressful), house repairs (hours of life I won’t get back), and let us not forget the fact I am obligated to pay Council Tax (et al) whenever there is no tenant in the property (during void periods).

Money makes the world go round, yes, I know and therein lies the moral of the story 🙂  

Rant over!  


Blog Tour

Blog Tour:

A writing friend, Paula Read AKA Champagnewhiskey, tagged me in a blog tour. Paula is a writer and environmentalist, cloud gazer who is located somewhere in France. Her blog is diverse and interesting, of course it is also a great read! Just like Paula, I don’t usually comment on my writing via my blog, although I obviously do write, but lately it hasn’t been as often as is usually normal for me! Anyway, I will endeavour to write about my writing, so thanks for tagging me Paula!

Upon What Are You Working?

I have a habit of skipping from one project to the next. My writing habits match my reading habits actually. Generally I have to be in the mood for whatever it is I read, therefore I often have five or six books I switch between, so to it is the same for my writing!

I have been writing a ‘trilogy’ novel since I was 24, which could be categorised as horroresque, I suppose. I also write short stories, which again have the hint of horror about them, and of course the political press releases and columns I write currently for my work.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

Well, that I can’t answer! Every writer likes to think they are unique, yet, in reality we are all influenced by what we read and enjoy. I’m not so bold as to claim I’m new and fresh and funky! I haven’t reinvented the wheel here! In my case I know I have a good stock cupboard in my mind, whereby the words and styles of other authors linger as reference points. Authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, M R James, Robert Bloch, James Herbert, Shirley Jackson and so on and so forth, have been part and parcel of my reading and imagination process since I was tiny! I wrote because of these authors, which might seem sacrilegious to you folk out there, but horror was my first love. Horror made me enjoy reading, and writing, well before Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte ever did. Therefore, these horror authors laid the foundations of my writing style.

If I say one thing about my work or style though, I do like to think that I don’t write artificially, I.E, it’s not just regurgitation of other classic horror tales, regardless of the influence they have had upon me! I also like to remember that horror can be horror in any context, it doesn’t have to be some surreal and fantastical plot or circumstance to unnerve. My style/genre is true to me and what I know and feel; it is always my story, told my way.

Why do you write what you write?

Well, either I write short stories or have to live with a running commentary going on in my mind! I write because I hear, visualise and feel my characters. I can be out walking, and will pass someone or someplace, see something, and without warning I’m inspired and a story begins weaving its way into my mind. From this point I think about the characters and I flesh out the plot. In doing this the characters world becomes stuck in my world, so, I have to write it down or face hearing voices! Does that make me crazy?! Probably, but it works to inspire me, and it always makes the story/plot/character more real to me. If I can’t hear my characters speak to me, then I can’t write the story.

How does your writing process work?

Sometimes I finish a writing project straight through to the end, depends on the length of the story really. In the case of my trilogy novel, it has been some years of editing and rewriting, but amazingly, after what could be a year break from writing it, I can pick up the plot and carry on! As I have said, my characters talk to me! They are ghosts intruding in my reality, and they never shut up!

Usually I do a rough draft of a story on my laptop first, which I then edit until I am finally happy with it. I sometimes write in notebooks too. I love the written word, pen to paper, so often I will scribble an idea or even edit something whilst I am taking a flight somewhere (I’m never without one of my precious notebooks and favourite writing pens)!

I write anytime and anyplace, literally. I have woken up at 3 a.m and been struck by an idea, merely from looking out of the window at a car passing by! If an idea buzzes around inside my head, well, I have to write it down regardless of the unGodly hour or how inconvenient it might be. I must confess, I even used to write my stories whilst at work! No one ever knew, and it was a great way to escape the dull working day!

Who am I tagging?

Well, I’m tagging all of you out there. If you feel so inclined to participate in this Blog Tour Q&A’s then just do it! Please let me know though, as I would love to read what you answer! This might be the lazy option, but cut me some slack as I am writing this on my iPad, and you know I think it isn’t the best tech for long winded writing malarkey!


Quick Stop

This is going to be a quick post, as I’m using my iPad, and it tends to get a little crazy whenever I need to make edits!

I just wanted to stop by my blog, catch up and let everyone know I’m still here, well, not in Madrid, but in the UK.

Yes, I have returned to the UK so I can  do some volunteer work with a political party!!

This isn’t my first stint with a political party. Many moons ago I did something similar, and being given another opportunity to get involved with this type of work once again has made me happy!

If you didn’t know…………….I LOVE politics.

So, if I am a little quiet and don’t get to peruse WordPress as much I would usually, you’ll understand why.

I hope you lot out there are well and being as productive as always?!

Hasta luego and muchos besos!