CP No More

“Well that is a bag of shit” I thought to myself. It hadn’t been a bag of shit up to that point, in fact it had been the opposite, whatever that might be. I had been pottering about in my shed making a new saw to bench interface. For once my clumsy attempts at producing something worthwhile were being confounded and a decent looking piece was emerging. The sun was shining through, the birds were singing and I was pretty sure my choice in music was annoying the neighbours who had chosen this day to also be working at the bottom of their garden. All was great.

I saw the shadow of my loved one approaching before I heard her and was a bit excited at showing her my manly creation knowing she would humour me and pour praise upon me.

“ I’ve got some bad news” she opened.

That is never a good start to a conversation. Knowing she had just returned from the Doctor’s and also knowing her father was seriously ill in hospital, there was at least two possibilities that were going to shaft my day. I looked at her urging for her to carry on.

“There is a new CPN at the Surgery”

“But where is Alice” (not her real name to protect the innocent and her voice is being played by an actor)

There began the end to my day, which has seen my sleep fitfully and get up early to exorcise this story from my head.

I suppose I had better recap as this incidental newsflash doesn’t seem too sinister as I write my tale.

I have been a headcase for over 30 years. It started with people trying to kill me or trying to get me to kill them with a train. On a regular basis, acts of vandalism or self hate not in my job description as a train driver were exacted upon me. Passing through numerous incidents, numerous relationship breakdowns, losses of accommodation, insolvency, accidents, work related stress and health issues which were all built upon fairly shaky initial mental foundations to the point we now find myself. Current status: getting there.

Anyone who has suffered mental health problems will know the torturous path you need to follow to get help. Anyone who has suffered mental health problems will know that obstacles in the form of professionally trained experts litter the road. Experts who have the answers to things that aren’t the problems you have. It can be frustrating but you go through with it.

You go to the Doctor, usually as a result of a prompt from a loved one or by actually admitting the signs yourself (less common). The Doctor offers drugs and Psychiatric help, as that is one area they will not don the latex gloves and go probing into. You book the CPN: you wait. Eventually you see the CPN, who are without exception lovely people. They suggest one of two paths; CBT and Mindfulness. There are others, desensitisation, EMDR, hypnosis, snake oil. I have received all of the above with differing results. CBT is great, I am now a very orderly person* (* compared to previous versions of me), EMDR is great, I no longer have nightmares of previous calamities. There is only so much CBT you can have before you are repeating yourself and you go around clutching your worksheets like an anonymous alcoholic clutches their Big Book taking steps in multiples of twelve.

And then there is Mindfulness, usually part of a double act with Meditation. I have a problem with these two jokers. I am sure they work. I am sure someone gets paid a shitload for teaching people how to spread the word. I am sure that the clear up rates at practises up and down the land are phenomenal for mental health issues but how many are cured and how many just don’t go back? No problem; the box is ticked either way.

To start you have to practice clearing your mind. Can’t clear it? You need to practice more. Coda. Repeat to Fade.

Imagine you are in a warm, safe place. I thought I was supposed to be clearing my mind, because right now I’m on a Spanish sunbed, the sea is making that lovely slapping noise, the gulls are calling, there is a fake Peruvian pipe band playing that tune from that movie. There is the bloke selling watches and CD’s, there is the smell of burnt oil and garlic.

OK, forget the warm, safe place. Imagine the sun rising, imagine it entering your body, feel it in your toes, it is moving up to your ankles. I didn’t realise that my ankle was hurting, I wonder how I did that? My toenails need cutting as I forgot to do them when the phone rang. I’d better get back to that message when I’ve finished here. …

It’s now in your calves … Oh yes I’m supposed to be concentrating on the sun in my legs; sorry. It’s made it’s way to your thighs. Are they going to mention my bum or my knob? I doubt it, they are professionals. You really shouldn’t have thoughts like that, it is childish, you are here to get better, not make knob jokes. This is serious… OK I’d better get back to that warm feeling. Oh they didn’t say knob or bum, they went straight to tummy. Stop it concentrate on thinking about nothing. Is it calves, carves of calfs? I’ll google that when I get home. You are filled with that warmth. Listen to your breathing Listen to my breathing? How do I do that? I’d best breathe louder, yep I can here it now. Am I breathing too fast ? Is this how I normally breathe? Your breathing slows down as the warmth pulses in an out like the waves. Shit I’m back on the beach, that bloke with the watches is near me, You are relaxed Am I fuck, I’ve got to pretend I’m asleep so he goes away and I’m laid on this bed with an aching ankle and a desire to take a piss.

I’ve never really succeeded with meditation. I also tried to teach myself ventriloquism when I was younger, I never really succeeded at that either, in fact my whole life is a failure, I should see the Doctor.

You see, you have to be clear of mind to be mindful and my mind never stops working, it never rests, I’m thinking of a dozen things at a time, it won’t go away and I want it to stop. The drugs slow it down but the modern world is my alcohol. Pinterest is my Vodka, Facebook my Meth. My mind is full of thoughts and Zuckerberg is feeding my addiction with more thoughts. I just googled to see if he owned Pinterest. I just can’t help myself. Anyway I digress.

So when a CPN comes along and speaks sense, doesn’t offer voodoo or mindfulness, does understand me and actually makes a difference then they are something you need to keep hold of. I have made so many changes to my life, altered so many of my ways, I can even sleep most nights, not this one obviously. I opened up to Anne Alice, false names are hard to work with. I opened up to her. I picked off the scabs of my scarred mind as I have done many times before, in surety that it would be the last time. I went back to worse places than I had been before because that is how it works. I no longer had to explain I just needed to get better. I didn’t have to pretend I was on a beach, embarrassed that I hadn’t actually found inner peace (got a nice watch though) or start making lists of my lists. This was it. I admitted my job was too much for me and hang the consequences, I decided that I was hanging onto the past rather than letting it stay there. I admitted I was living beyond my means and addressed the matter. All change for the better, because of a unique understanding with my CPN.

And now they have been rotated to another practise and I can no longer see them. I have a new CPN. I cannot go through all that again. What if, in fact there is no if, they have a different take on my situation? I no longer have my job, I have changed my lifestyle I am being rebuilt. I cannot risk what I have gained on a different opinion. I also understand they like Mindfulness.

Somebody, somewhere thinks this rotation is a good idea. They think severing my connections is a necessary action They probably have a degree and brainstorm. My head is a fucking brainstorm. I don’t deserve this but hey ho, now I have cancelled my next appointment, a box somewhere has been successfully ticked.

Thanks a lot .


Walking in my Great Grandfather’s Footsteps

Recently Linda was contacted regarding one of her ancestors who had fought and died in the First World War.  James Frost . This led to us driving to France and Belgium which she has just blogged about here Linda’s Blog.

However whilst we were in the area we also visited Ypres (Ieper) where my Great Grandfather had been stationed for a time before his posting to the Somme where on November 4th 1916 he lost his life.

Herbert Goulding was my paternal Grandmother’s Father. He had been born in the Barracks of the Lancashire Fusiliers at Bury and joined up as a boy soldier. He had seen action in the Boer War and spent 21 years in the Army gaining the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

After leaving the army his family settled in Barrow in Furness but within 14 months of civilian life he had reenlisted at the start of the Great War. He was shipped out to France initially stationed around the Belgian town of Ypres.

Ypres endured particularly heavy fighting. At the end of the war nothing remained standing. The Ypres  of today is rebuilt as it once had been and looks like it was from the Middle ages, except every building is not yet 100 years old.

The war diaries show that Herbert Goulding was on the western front at Sanctuary Hill of Christmas day 1915 and that he was relieved on the evening. The unique thing about Sanctuary Hill is that it was time capsuled by the landowners at the end of the war, preserved as a museum. The trenches are as they were, as are the craters from artillery fire. The archaeological finds are stacked up somewhat unceremoniously and the splintered and dead trees are strapped in position as they were when the Armistice was called.

My Great Grandfather wasn’t a young lad who signed up with the notion of a good time abroad, sold the spin of the recruitment officers, believing they would be home for Christmas, he was a career soldier who had seen it all before. I wonder what he must have thought at the constant stream of cannon fodder and the ever pervading stench of death, mud and destruction.

I can’t put into words my emotions as I walked the trenches, knowing he had walked them, imagining how he must have felt to be on the Front Line  on Christmas Day, with his young family miles away in another land, another world almost, whilst trying to look after soldiers who were little more than children themselves. RIP RSM Herbert Goulding, thank you for your life.




Remembering the Chase

I must have been there hundreds of times. In years gone by I would go there two or three times a day. For those of you thinking ” Aye Aye, he doesn’t even own a dog” , I had far too many opportunities to mountain bike before my broken back and lack of talent accident.  I left a little of myself on King Billy’s, mostly my courage and a little blood, maybe a bit of wee.

Since that time I haven’t really visited the Chase. I have cycled through it on the tarmac but mostly avoided the wooded bits. Over the last few months Linda has been reintroducing me to the Chase and aside from some great trails and some amazing views there is some amazing history and most of it has passed me by.

Today we visited a living history experience at the Centre on Marquis Drive, which not only exhibited relics of the day and brought to life the fading black and white photographs of people and times gone by. In one of the original huts is a scale model of the camps and some high definition photographs of a high altitude laser surveys which show the locations of ground disturbance through the trees pinpointing the exact location of the structures. It brings reality to the history and even shows bell pits and other far older manmade alterations to the landscape. The pictures are simply mind-blowing.

Having covered just about every square mile of the place, how was I not aware that 500,000 troops training for the trenches of World War One called the Chase home for a few weeks? That two camps holding 20,000 troops each occupied the area and that a lot of the trails are a legacy of the occupation and that the railway climbed up from Milford to supply them?

Having visited the Somme leaving humbled by the bravery and brutality of men and war, to see the other side; the days before the horror was revealed in its enormity brought back all those memories. To read letters written home by innocents, and discover the relics recovered, left me once again humbled and saddened. Did they realise what fate really awaited? Did they realise this was a production line for a machine that was constantly in need of more lives to fuel the fire of destruction? How did the Chase look to them as they sat on ammunition boxes, smoking their Woodbines in a moment of quiet where there was no enemy sniper waiting for a pot shot?

As usual I have arrived at a point in history later than everyone else and I have found another subject I want to learn more of. What amazes me is that I blissfully rode past unusual features and never gave them a second thought. I wonder what else I haven’t yet learned I have missed.

The event is on again tomorrow and if you are at a loss, please go and visit, it is so worth the effort.

It`s Christmas

The Plastic Hippo

So here it is So here it is

How indescribably lucky we are as a nation to be under the stewardship of such a kind, caring and thoroughly generous government. The largess and caring munificence of Mrs May and her selfless cabinet colleagues knows no bounds and her avowed mission to care for the vulnerable, support the poor and make this great nation a beacon of equality continues unabated.

The latest gift to a grateful populous is to allow local authorities to increase council tax by six per cent over two years to inject much needed cash into the social care system. This unbelievably charitable act will, no doubt, be a source of great comfort to elderly and disabled people currently abandoned and at risk of starving to death. Mother Theresa has taken bold and compassionate action and has shifting the problem manufactured by a previous government in which she served onto local councils…

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The representation of the people

The Plastic Hippo

Via M Bird of 82 Walsall Road, Aldridge Via M Bird of 82 Walsall Road, Aldridge

Although it is tempting to tar them all with one, broad, sordid brush, it would be quite wrong to consider all politicians as nasty, self-serving, mendacious, opportunistic parasites. Given natural selection, the possibility of some form of innate human decency and the hope that bad people are eventually found out, there must surely be in existence some politicians who are not complete and utter bastards. With political hypocrisy currently off the scale that measures a taking of breathe and outlandish drivel being spouted as if it is in some way remotely connected to anything other than absolute garbage, a peek into the quite backwaters of local government reveals an illuminating insight into the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

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Defying gravity

The Plastic Hippo

Via glamgrid.com Via glamgrid.com

In an increasingly predictable and occasionally boring existence, there are very few things that can still provoke jaw-dropping astonishment. If the discovery, observation and actual measurement of gravitational waves left you agog with wonder, consider the utterly remarkable and almost frightening piece of reality that two weeks into February and with 12 matches to play, Leicester City are 2 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Although narrowly beaten by Arsenal, Leicester are still favourites to win the title and on current form clever football pundits suggest that Arsenal were lucky to score the winner in the fifth minute of added time against ten men. Astonishingly, the Gunners were considered as underdogs and their last gasp victory is regarded as something of a shock. Once considered as lower league cannon fodder at the mercy of better resourced global brands, Leicester have spent the equivalent of the…

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The Plastic Hippo

Via scoopnest.com Via scoopnest.com

We now know that his name is David and that he is 48 years old and that he comes from Oxfordshire. David likes to talk a lot about “British” values such as democracy, tolerance, freedom, respect and equality as if these are uniquely “British” possessions. Sadly, David and his government are systematically dismantling the very values he wishes the rest of us to adhere to. Faced with the direst humanitarian crisis that Europe has endured in 70 years, David shrugs his shoulders, turns his back, shuts his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts “la la la la, can`t hear you.”

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