Tuesday, 4 April 2017

'Cop Town' By Karin Slaughter

Although I am well aware of the popularity of Karin Slaughter, and being a self confessed crime novel fan, I am ashamed to say this is the first time I have read one of Karins books.

Of all the crime books I've read, the majority have been enjoyable, a small percentage I haven't bothered finishing and an even smaller percentage are memorable. 'Cop town' definitely falls into the latter.

The reason for this is quite simple, reading this book, you are not just processing the unfolding of a crime. You are processing the lives of the wonderful characters and their everyday struggles contained in the pages.

I said after reading the Elizabeth Haynes book 'Into the darkest corner' that reading the book produced feelings within me that were at times quite unpleasant and caused me feelings of anxiety and disgust, and it is the same with 'Cop Town' and it sets the book apart from your average crime thriller.
The story focuses on the killing of a cop from the Atlanta police force in 1974. The force has only just started accepting female recruits, but sexism, homophobia and racism are still rife within the force. Women can't partner men, and whites can't partner blacks. And if you happen to be gay, well you're on your own. The two central characters Maggie and Kate are struggling to be accepted by the force, and on top of trying to catch an elusive killer.

This is a fantastic crime thriller, but the accurate exploration of racism, sexism and homophobia make this book much, much more than that. It's a history lesson. And you should get a copy.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

My experience of the NHS

Hello all,

It's been a while, I hope you are well.

Today I want to tell you about my experience with the NHS, as it seems the only time you ever hear about the NHS now is in a negative capacity. Whether it's waiting times, no available beds or government cuts.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the NHS for the recent treatment I got under their care.

A couple of months ago, I was referred to the ENT department for an issue I had with my nose. This problem has been causing me problems for over ten years now, but I had always put it down to my use of cocaine, so because I was an addict with a conscious I was reluctant to waste NHS time by complaining.

Because my use of cocaine has stopped but the problem persisted, I went to see a fantastic doctor called Dr Webb. He told me that I had a deviated septum and enlarged turbinates, and thankfully and rather kindly assured me that it was in no way related to cocaine use.

The symptoms are not very pleasant, but if it helps anyone suffering with the same thing then I shall tell you what happens. The main problems I had was 'stuck' mucous. Because my septum was out of line and my turbinate (boney like structure at either side of the nose) was enlarged, mucous would build up and get stuck and dry up. This would happen daily and i would become aware of it by pressure building up. I would then have to aggressively blow my nose and release what had become a bone-dry ball of blood and mucous often up to half an inch thick. I also used to snore quite bad due to not having a perfect flow of air through my nose.

Dr Webb gave me a steroid to use but assured me that the could and more importantly WOULD operate on me if this didn't work.

Recent news stories reveal that minor operations such as this would be put off in order to save money in order to prioritise major operations. Don't get me wrong, I would happily have lived with this problem if it meant the money being spent on a life saving operation to someone else, but the way the news has been spun regards to the NHS letting patients down and undervaluing those with minor ailments left me a bit anxious that it would happen to me.

Thankfully, it didn't. Dr Webb, operated on me on Friday, just two months after initially reporting the problem. Which I thought was fantastic. Admittedly, I did get several reschedules through the post, leaving me dreading that one of the dates would have on it a date ending in 2018 or 2019. But it didn't, it was just a day either side of the original plan. Bearing in mind I've waited in a longer queue for concert tickets, and then for up to a year for that concert to arrive, waiting two months for something that was going to improve my quality of life was insignificant.

My praise doesn't end with the waiting time and Dr Webb. On the ward (the daycase unit at broadgreen hospital) I was treated with respect and dignity. I arrived at 7:30 and was the last operation of the morning. I was put in my own room, with my own bathroom and television. Although the reason for this wasn't made clear, I would like to think that it was for my own comfort due to me being the last operation of the day.

The staff are overworked, that much is clear to anyone. Whether you have called your GP, sat in A+E or been admitted to a ward you know how much strain the staff are under. The remarkable thing however is that they don't let it show. I used to work in a call centre where people with broken tv remote controls and other tv related issues used to call to get help. There used to be an LED light that used to light up red on the phones when there were 50 or more calls in the queue. This honestly used to send people into a rage. Desks would be banged, headsets were flung and the customers generally got a poor service from people who were otherwise good at their job. This doesn't happen in the NHS. People have to understand that if you have waited 7 days to see your gp, or 7 hours to see a doctor in A+E then they have been seeing a constant stream of people before you. Not just twiddling their thumbs sitting at a desk. Despite seeing a constant stream of people, to be treated with respect, dignity and care is in my opinion somewhat superhuman.

I would like to thank all the staff at broadgreen hospital for the care I received.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Travel diary. Day 1

Travel diary

28th September, 2016

My morning began at 5:40 am, I am not a morning person, even when excited. But it was nothing a smoke and a cup of coffee, lovingly made by my mother couldn’t sort out.

Taxi arrived on time and I had a jolly driver who, after teaching me his knowledge of the Swedish language consisting of the words ‘Hej’ and ‘Hej da’ (Hello and Goodbye) then began talking to me about alcohol. At 6:30 in the morning.

Journey to the airport took longer than expected with the national express, which at that time of the morning wasn’t as jolly as it suggests in the song. We went to Manchester via Runcorn, going over the Runcorn bridge. I am a proud Liverpudlian, but I have to admit, I did draw an ugly comparison of the glum industrial looking bridge of Runcorn to that of the majestic Oresundsbron that I will be crossing later.

Flight was Lovely. The sun was shining intensely through the window, and it afforded me a nice pleasant sleep. Coming into land in Denmark was horrendous however, we were warned prior to taking off that the plane would encounter turbulence upon arrival, but nothing compared me for what happened. The lady next to me was angry, I found it amusing. Who was she angry at? The wind? People have far to much anger inside themselves. Emelie's dad would later experience the same winds on a later flight to another part of Sweden.

Emelie’s dad had sent me a text mid air to tell me he would be picking me up, so at arrivals I waited and got speaking to a Danish guy. He asked me where I was from, so after boring him with my Danish ancestry, I told him I was from Liverpool. Bizarrely he asked me if I supported Everton, I corrected him and told him I was a Liverpool fan. ‘What about you?’ I asked, following it up with ‘Kobenhavn, Aalborg?’ knowing by his discomfort in his face that the answer was likely going to be Manchester united, and it was.

Luckily on queue, Emelies dad rescued me with a burger king...again, and a ride to Malmo to Emelies house.

I was greeted by Uno, the cat who ran and hid, but had to wait 2 hours for human company, firstly Emelies brother, who greeted me with a Subway, then Emelie, then her mom, who cooked me dinner. Uno had thankfully warmed to me again by then, and even brushed against me like cats do.

These lovely Swedish folk really like to make sure you don’t go hungry.

Emelie got bored of me pretty quickly, as I was trying in vain to convince her of the brilliance of kodi and it’s ability (albeit slightly on the illegal side) to be the app that Netflix wishes it was. She was soon to be convinced and, we spent the evening watching ‘Keanu’, a brilliantly made fun story about two regular guys who have to pretend to be ‘gangster’ in order to infiltrate a gang in order to save their kitten.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Was Shakespeare really that good?

So, this morning at around 7am I sat at my laptop and full of enthusiam I opened word and began to write a novel.....for 20 minutes.

See, on my laptop I also have football manager and I was two games away from winning the league with Malmö ff for the sixth consecutive season. So a pause in writing to play a couple of games wouldnt do many harm, I could plan some character development in my head while playing. I won the league. Hurrah.

It can be tough being a football manager, so I decided to watch a movie. I have tons of movies on my hard drive I keep planning to watch, so I put on 'Alien'. As this this blog is partly about reviewing I shall be honest and say I didnt really enjoy it. I find with old sci-fi/horror movies that if you missed the hype at the tine, then digital and technological advances of our current time make them difficult to enjoy.

About 2 and a half hours had past and I was getting hungry.

After a quick sausage sandwich I decided to let my stomach settle while reading a book. For 4 hours.

My girlfriend will be calling soon (which if you're reading, I assure you I can't wait) but with so many distractions in life how can I be disciplined enough to get to chapter two?

So was Shakespeare really talented, or just really really bored?

Of course I know he was talented, but I have developed a newly found respect for modern day writers (or all self employed people for that matter) who must be incredibly disciplined to avoid the modern day distractions we have at our disposal.

My hat's off to you all.

Nearly time for X-factor.


Saturday, 10 September 2016

My step 12, in action.

I stalled a little after my step 11, through fear more than anything. I wanted to keep what I had, and felt that if I found myself trying to be assistance to those people seeking what I had found in sobriety, then I could find myself in danger of joining them, rather than helping them.

How selfish of me. After all, I relied on the knowledge of recovered addicts to help me get to where I am, so why on earth did I feel so frightened to pass on what I have learned from these people in order to assist others. I heard it said 'You've got to keep what you have got, by giving it away' and how right that proved to be.

One of my best friends is an alcoholic, I wont name her, but yesterday she had found her rock bottom and called me for help. It was something I had to do. I offered to take her to a meeting, or meet up for a walk, but she couldn't do that. She just couldn't face going out of the house, so she invited me around. I had never found myself in this situation before, and I am extremely grateful that my addiction never led me down the path of alcohol, so before seeing her I tried to gain some knowledge. I spoke to my sponsor and called into rehab who were all really honored to help. I can't thank them enough. 

So, I went to my friends, confident in myself that I had the knowledge and power granted to me by god, to help my friend. After the quantity she had drank, which again isn't appropriate to share, I was advised by almost everyone to get her to hospital.

Upon seeing her I was shocked, she had aged dramatically since I last seen her, she was frail, and had lost the spark in her eyes. From seeing her, I completely understood why she just couldn't go out. So, after the first challenge of facing her was out the way it was quickly onto the second challenge. She asked me to get her alcohol. I honestly didn't know what to do. In my mind I knew it was the right thing to do, but I just felt so uncomfortable buying alcohol for an alcoholic friend who means so much to me. My addiction brought me to my knees mentally, not physically so it was so hard seeing someone who ACTUALLY needed to consume her demon, in order to function.

Again, strong sponsorship helped me. I called my sponsor, asked if I should buy her alcohol and he told me that yes, it would actually be recommended by alcohol services.

So I did, and thankfully my friend did, after a small quantity of alcohol agree to come the hospital with me. Now the last three times I've been in the emergency department were due to suicide attempts, so it was the last place i wanted to be for what turned out to be almost 4 hours, but I was selfless, patient and tolerant.

She got the help she needed and agreed to a detox. I accompanied her home, made her a cup of tea and tidied up for her, I also made sure there was no alcohol in her house. And thankfully today, she is still sober.

This experience, although I would have preferred it to have not been someone so close to me has been utterly rewarding. In helping others I have helped myself. Which is exactly what the 12th step is all about.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

'Into the darkest corner' by Elizabeth Haynes

I have just finished reading this fantastic novel by Elizabeth Haynes. What struck me most was when i came to the final page, was how hard it was for me to read. Not through quality or deliverance, but through the content, which was at times downright unsettling. It really touched me.

This was a story, despite being a work of fiction that needed to be told and needs to be told more often. The writer should be proud of herself for not shying away from any aspect of domestic abuse, whether it be physical violence, mental torture or rape. The writer says in an interview at the end that she will have 'fewer friends once people read the book' I wholeheartedly disagree.

The story follows Catherine, an ordinary woman who finds herself in the arms of an abusive partner. The novel is skillfully written, instead of chapters it is seperated by time, the past and future. The past being the horrific relationship, and the future being Catherine trying to build a new life. This makes the story a real page turner, as despite the terribly abusive past, there is always the hope for the reader that Catherine recovers.

Elizabeth refused to do what many writers would have done - to create a happy ever after, rosey future. Instead, the future for Catherine was plagued by mental illness for many years, giving the story a heartbreaking realism of what millions of women (and men) go through on a daily basis following the trauma of domestic abuse. This was clearly well researched, showing the work that Elizabeth put into creating this novel.

Despite the difficult subject, this is a really thrilling novel to read. The writer manages to create physical feelings of emotion in the reader, which is the sign of a tremendous author.

I will definately be heading to my local bookshop to look for more of the authors work. And if you want to find out what happens to Catherine then I recommend you do the same.

Thanks for reading


Monday, 5 September 2016

The serenity prayer, and its meaning

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I've been around cocaine anonymous for a while, so I've said this prayer 100's of times. But today I have understood it's true meaning to myself.

So, what does it mean? And why is it important to the suffering alcoholic addict?

I had a difficult morning today, I was accompanying my family to the hospital for results on the growth of my brothers brain tumour. I was plagued with fear and anxiety. And really wanted to just run away and hide.

But hiding is what I have done in the past. I have used such appointments as an excuse to use and be wreckless. Making such situations all about me.

Today I found myself saying the serenity prayer lots.

I was praying to accept the things I cannot change. The outcome of the decision was already pre determined before my fear and anxiety kicked in. I had to develop an acceptance that this outcome was not in my control, and no amount of running, hiding and using would change this outcome.

I was praying for the courage to change the things I can. Now instead of running and hiding which is what I would have done in the past which would have been no help to anyone, despite my intense fear, what I did have the power to change was being there for once for my family at this difficult time. This was a new experience for me, and there was times when I was close to telling my parents that I would go home and wait for the news, or that I would wait in the car.

But I did it. I had the acceptance that I wasnt in control, and I had the courage to support my family.

The news was fantastic, the tumour hadn't grown.

.....and that's what the serenity prayer means to me.