About Alison

A feisty mother earth type, who has an opinion about everything I would like to think I use my "chopsy" attitude to throw some light and perhaps a new slant on current social and cultural issues.

Since I moved to the country for a quiet life I have been lucky enough to create a more healthy more relaxed environment for myself. I love country life, Family, Friends, Horses and Dogs. I also love, photography, writing/chatting and connecting with others.

Please have a look at a collection of my photos blog,


or join in on my chats here or on my otherblog


which follows my efforts to learn to ride and care for horses in my 50s! or just follow me on Twitter and I will follow you back (if you are a real person) on @alisonbarton1. Enjoy and talk to me.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

What’s good about minding your own business?

Has social networking given us a useful tool to help others or is it just a modern way to be nosy?

After the second world war there was a lot of temporary housing, ”prefabs” which became permanent and lasted well into the 70s. As a young couple my parents lived in one. Some of theses groups of little corrugated iron bungalows were built in the strangest of places, away from existing streets or bomb sites. One in particular was a settlement of twenty or so built on a large traffic island in the middle of a small town, surrounded by traffic and shops; it was a whorl of activity of coming and going.

I am not sure how people were allocated these homes if they were neighbours moved  en bloc or initially strangers to each other. It didn’t take long, though for everyone’s routines to be known to one another the walls were thin and the paths crisscrossed under bedroom windows. The little gardens were usually kept tidy and colourful but they too were small and there was nowhere to hide. Family life therefore was very much exposed for all to witness, the highs and the lows. There was still a mixture of cultural responses to “trouble”, some felt what went on was private , but somehow disapproval of certain goings on hovered ever ready and acted as a moderator in some cases and a safety network in others. Domestic violence is a fairly new term in a historical sense but it is something which has been around since the caveman. Tolerance of it and of child abuse has sensitised somewhat in the last 30 years, but I think people always had a bottom line which was not to be tolerated. Hitting children, quite harshly was acceptable, then,  after all. However in this tight, cheek by jowl existence there was something that united them and it became a practise as concern spread they would react spontaneously to a new event to protect  a vulnerable member of the neighbourhood , a child, a wife an elderly man, perhaps. Sometimes it involved nothing more than a crowd forming to oust the abuser once and for all and give a woman the confidence to shout “and don’t come back” and everyone would know. Other times rightly or wrongly more pressure was brought to bare to “reform” someone’s behaviour.

Crowds forming at incidents were common, people had no embarrassment of being right there in the thick of it and throwing in the odd challenging remark, buoyed by the presence of their neighbours. Then it seem to peter out and net curtain twitching was all we could muster and a surreptitious call to the authorities, in some ways this “nosy” behaviour became despised. We all moved into more insular lives, more cars, bigger shops, higher garden fences. We stopped looking and we stopped caring and it became somebody else’s responsibility, to look out for others.

Now social networking has brought us a new opportunity to spread the word when someone needs help and we have a tool we feel comfortable using to bring pressure to bare. There are bad things about technology and there will never be a replacement for a brave sole to step up and be counted and use their own physicality to protect someone.

But we have entered a new era where each and everyone one of us can make a difference and add our voices to others to raise the volume to be heard.  The following film is an example of how we can each be a voice for good. It is 30 mins long but it is so interesting and provoking,even if you don;t agree with this particular cause, you can see how each one of us can use technology for good.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What lurks beneath

 I sat and cried when I read an article about a woman who pays for her daughter’s spray tan every month as well as the services of a professional make- up artist. Not a big deal for some “wanna be” beauty queen, you might say, at least her Mom hasn’t got her a boob job yet!

No but the girl is only three years old.  The purpose of this expenditure is to prepare the little toddler for regular beauty pageants. By three you could describe her as an old hand after all she has been taking part in these pageants since she was ten months old.
 It’s  above board and organised, so what upsets me so much then? It's not the isolation from playful times and free spirited fun, no not necessarily  It's not how children involved in these pageants might be affected about their looks and what that means to how they are treated. 

No it’s the fact that the enhancements are to make the girls look like sexy little women. There is no getting away from that. The make up is adult in every way, pouting lips, thick eyeliner; the hair piled up and big, not a plait in sight. Even a swimwear section! Which is apparently this little girl’s favourite part and that’s why she loves her darker skin tone. Did she really figure that out all on her own, at three?
Parading Livestock

Girls are paraded for others to judge them whether they win or not what does that say to them, either she isn’t attractive enough to win despite all the effort, or that wearing all that make up is the only way she will get noticed. I can’t see any positive messages for any young girl let alone a mere toddler.

I am distressed about the fact that a whole industry is set up around the sexualisation of tiny children. This has the potential for changing some people’s perceptions of all children not just those taking part in the pageants.

How precious is innocence and how important is it that we,  as a society, protect our children from degrading and dangerous environments. Surely this must include firmly stamping out associations between children and sex.

How mothers and other adults try and justify their participation in this type of activity makes me gag. There is no justification for traipsing little girls around this circuit, as if by illustrating she has a moral handle on the whole debacle the mother, identifies that there is a line not to be crossed and she has kept her daughter on the right side adding she has not considered surgery or Botox!  
I wonder what is on the other side of that line, what dark and horrific place must that be? At least this mother and other parents who enter their daughters in these pageants are saving their children from that.

Stop child abuse now.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

No budgie smugglers for the men then?

How far have we women come on the journey towards full emancipation and standing on a “level playing field”. Well I suppose it all depends on what playing field you are standing on. If its Beach volley ball there seems to be a very obvious difference between the sexes that at first glance may seem petty and inconsequential. But like all these “small” issues, they have deep rooted negative insidious connotations for women, all women. Not just those interested in beach volley ball or sport generally.

Simultaneously because the matter seems mere “window dressing” anyone tempted to castigate the dress code, of the players and compare the glaring differences from a “sexist” point of view, runs the risk of being labelled, “hysterical” or extreme. Its just Beach volley ball for goodness sake?
Well call me what you like but let me ask just a few questions,(I'll make a stab at the answers too)
1Why do the ladies shorts need to be so brief,
Answer, perhaps because its “beach” volley ball stupid and they are playing on a beach. So it’s like they are wearing a bikini as if they have just started playing a game after a sunbathe
(Oh I see).

2. Its not long since Beach volley ball has been an approved Olympic sport so perhaps it looks startlingly modern and with it, but now it’s a serious sport right?
Answer, yeah right!

3. So there has to be a unified look a team strip and they came up with this for the all the ladies of the world? Are the ladies happy to wear such revealing and potentially easily wardrobe malfunctioning kit?
Answer, Of course they are just happy to be playing for their country and they look really happy don’t they?

4. Yes, but what responsibility do they have to make it more professionally appreciated for their skill and inspire other young women to take this up as a serious sport?
Answer, they are doing a great job, they get loads of attention,
 Serving in Beach Volleyball at Beijing 2008
5. You hardly see photos of the men’s team do you?
Answer No that’s true.

6.Don’t they want to look cool and get photographed and appeal to the masses to generate interest in the sport.
Answer,Well the girls seem to be doing that all on their own.

7. So no Budgie smugglers for the men then?

Answer, No way! what would that look like, ridiculous!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Equality in a Talent Show World!

Does success  mean stepping on others

I often have anxieties about whether society at large is manipulated intentionally by popular culture, to benefit a master plan. I find Feminism is under strain (yet again) and whilst I emphasise I am not an avid reader of feminist literature or ideals. I have my own base level of comprehension which is open for discussion of course.

It seems that not only is feminism becoming untrendy by young girls who feel they can make it on their own thank you very much, but equality per se is under attack.

The world goes round on an ability to feed and clothe itself, the majority look for their basic needs to be met whilst the greedy minority are encouraged to gain fortunes in enterprises because they act as the catalyst for the provision of the many. So the Tycoons are forgiven their opulent lifestyle because they provide the infrastructure for the ordinary guy to earn a crust.

To balance this of course we have seen any number of “protectionists” schemes introduced to ensure the “little guy” isn’t exploited. Fair Trade, minimum wage, hours of work directive,  health & Safety, human rights and so on. We are a caring world are we not? Through history there has always had to be a less important group of humans who need the work no other group should be asked to do. This has been a transient group as they form, through struggle into a force to be reckoned with.

Or can we be happy as one of the herd ?
So where has all this emancipation got us? The status quo seems alive and kicking doesn’t it?  Someone in a sweat shop somewhere has to make “stuff” cheap enough for us to buy it and make enough millionaires to keep the wheels of industry turning. If not why hasn’t exploitation been routed out?

Perhaps we have to accept in a small part of our guilt ridden brain, that we are natural oppressors and we are happy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, in order to be happy?

Look at the way we eat up all these talent shows, where the need to survive is ever present. The contestants (modern day gladiators) are encouraged to be prepared to step over others to get ahead.  Equality suggests a level playing field, when in reality we have to compete in a hierarchal pyramid, who wants to be at the bottom?


Sunday, 13 May 2012

That’s it I’m getting up

What keeps you awake at night? Have you got any magic formula for preparing for and succeeding in achieving a good night’s sleep?

It sounds crazy I know because I feel tired quite a lot and get fatigued easily,(ME/CFS) but I don’t sleep well. Now last night I had a few drinks (wine) but not a lot and early with my evening meal. But I will accept it is better if I don’t have any alcohol at all, but, its my one weakness!(and it was Saturday night and the BGT final was on  and now I am running out of excuses).

The ironic thing about this morning, it’s usually about 4am, what about you? I was awake for a while, you know that sort of wide awake that no closing your eyes and snuggling under the duvet will coax you back into dreamy sleep, awake.  When that unruly mind of mine, starting darting all over the place, shooting from one thought to another like a squash ball slamming up against the walls of the court during a fast and furious game. One of the thoughts that got hold was writing a blog about not sleeping, oh for goodness sake how daft is that?

I thought about the medical causes, physical and psychological. Obviously pain can keep you awake but I was comfortable, worries or grief can make it hard to relax and sad or unpleasant thoughts can make it impossible to settle. No I checked my thoughts like a guy with a hundred pockets in his suit looking for his keys, no, no worries. Lucky me I thought (apart from not being able to sleep, I countered).

Think of lying by the sea in a hammock,couldn't sleep here either!
Of course there is that period when you try to stay, sleepy and get back to sleep before you give up and actually admit, Ok I am wide awake! That’s the danger time for me because not only do I have to combat wild thoughts flying into my head, I have the representation of a snorting Rhinoceros lying next to me. Once I start to “hear” his snores and become aware of their never ceasing rhythm I am “doomed”,(Mr Mainwaring, Dad’s Army fans!). I won’t get side tracked about his snoring and what I do to stop him, (I might be leaving myself open to legal action if I divulge too much anyway Ha!).

So then I accept, yes I am awake, wide awake the only one awake in the house, alone but not alone.

What do I want a cup of tea, which for two reasons will probably not help my sleep at all? I do have a cup of tea though because its something to do and its warm and comforting and I sit in my armchair chatting to myself(in my head) I try not to disrupt the whole household(that sounded grand), I don’t want to disturb the sleeping  mound of snores upstairs.

I sit with my tea and think again of that thought, alone but not alone. It’s a comfort. I don’t know what the answer is and I would love to hear your ideas but. I sort of accept that there are times I just can’t sleep and I know that there are a lot of us out there making tea at four o’clock in the morning and I raise my cup and say Hi. If it helps you are not alone either.

Alison x

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Raising Awareness:Means Being Aware

At last technology is starting to work in the favour of good people trying to protect children. We are starting to get the message out  regarding the epidemic proportions of child abuse be it at home or abroad, the information about figures and the damage is being communicated with a click or a tweet. People are having to be disillusioned that it’s not some anonymous “boggy man” or woman? Who hides in wait in an alley way or in a car, in “dodgy dark places? It happens to children in all communities across social strata and religions and that most abusers are known to the children. That the abuser is trusted with the care of the child and that the majority of cases of abuse start before children are 4 years old. Before they have the benefit of asking for help.

So now technology is being used for good?  We good people are passing on this important and to some startling information, with just a “click.”

 This is a good step in the right direction, but it doesn’t stop with a “click”. We have to read this information and pause and consider what this means to us in our daily life. What responsibility does this now leave us with. Is it starting to feel a bit heavy now, this knowledge, this knowledge that has to stay with you and change how you think, it can’t be dispersed with a “click”.

We now have to look around and think about all the children that live in our house, apartment block or street. Visit our parks and hang around the shops. These are the children this is about. Not some poor little unseen child in another block another street another country. They live next door to someone you know, even if it’s not the other side of the wall. It may be that house up the lane, or on top of the hill.

These networks we are creating need to be aware that we don’t enable the very people intent on wheedling their way into the lives of children, in order to abuse them.  The difficulty is that good well meaning people, believe it or not look very much like paedophiles. We are human these awful human beings don’t have a tattoo on their forehead or a unique identifying mark. We can’t tell the difference I am afraid. The sexual predator can spot a struggling parent at a 1000 paces and knows exactly how to groom them to gain access to their children. They will be charm personified helpful, manipulative and make them wonder how they ever did without them. The emotional bully or violent abuser can use equally effective coping strategies to cover their tracks. As we carry this new responsibility of looking out for children, everywhere and make it easier for them to seek refuge. Be aware these abusers are already amongst us, they know what we know and they can slip seamlessly into the “protector” role.  Be careful, be aware and be prepared to act.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Love the one you're with

In the days when my husband was just becoming my boyfriend and I was young and insecure and he was gorgeous and well, shall we say, popular? I hated that song, with that line in it, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

He was in a band and was “on the road” a lot and I think he did actually sing that song. Occasionally I would finish my job for a couple of days and go and meet up with him. I would sit and watch him play and then watch when girls, rushed to “talk” to them after the “show”.  What is it about a man with a guitar in his hand? I remember one time  when  a girl elbowed me in the ribs and said ”hands off love he’s mine”  She stepped onto the stage with the grace of a starving bear, intent on putting her claws into him. What a life he had back then, charmed I’m sure!

That song though, Oh I hated it as if they needed any encouragement at that age! Whether I had anything to worry about or not its 30 years later and he is snoring upstairs, I’d like to say like a baby but he’s like a wart hog! Oh and I love him still ha!

The idea of the song was probably all wrong, an excuse to fill your boots and all that. But as I have grown older, I see it slightly differently and think the core sentiment might be a pretty good one to follow.

With families and friends far flung and time so pressurised perhaps we should see everyone we encounter every day as a precious person. They are to someone if not us. If we treat others like our mother or brother with loving kindness and compassion perhaps someone will do the same for our sister or Nephew.

If we show patients and understanding, perhaps we will help others give it back to us.  But boys,(or girls) if you think this gives you carte blanche to spread the love in “that” way don’t be surprised if your other half shares some strong and painful attention to your nether regions.

Alison x

Friday, 4 May 2012

3 Wives 24 Kids,Hey how long must his “to do list be?”

I was reading an article today about a polygamous marriage, in Utah, Salt Lake city between a man twin sisters and the sisters’ cousin. Three woman one man and 24 children. Well it got me thinking.

 Not so much the rights and wrongs of it, that’s a whole can of worms, but the how’s and whys of it.

I considered my situation, compared and contrasted it, married for a long time, (such a long time,) to one man.  I don’t share him with any other woman, to my knowledge! And I think it’s about all he can cope with. He has his “cave” you know when men disappear into the shed, the attic or the garage, his is the little music studio his cobbled together in the spare room. He spends hours in there, playing his guitar and recording “stuff”. Do polygamous men have a “cave” where they can be alone? Do they need one? Mine needs his and I need him to go in there at regular intervals. Does the other woman or women take the place of the “cave”. Give one wife rest from his nuances (endearing little ways) demands (so utterly predictable) and other signs of presence (odours).

Could it be a simple as that, I don’t mind what he does in the spare room alone because I am at liberty to do what I want, without feeling obliged to stop and  consider him. Can sharing a man actually be a relief? It may have its possibilities.

Mind you I do like to get him out of his “cave” and motivate him towards a “productive “ day every now and then, he is swamped in DIY projects, I occasionally like it if he comes with me places so I don’t have to drive and he can carry heavy things, even once in a while I like some relief, hey don’t get excited. I like some relief from the domestic chores like cooking the odd meal clearing the kitchen, feeding the dogs Oh and vacuuming (I hate vacuuming). How does that work in a polygamous marriage, are the “to do lists” longer for the man/husband or do the women get more help by sharing between themselves?

I was starting to warm to the idea then I thought about the power base, which settles somewhere in all relationships, the swing of give and take, take take and that’s where I could not see how it would work, because women loose a bargaining chip in this set up. Like it or lump it if it’s a good meal, a cuddle or an interested expression when they are telling the same old joke for the umpteenth time, we give and receive. If he can wander around from room to room, where’s the option to withhold in order to manipulate and get our own way when we want. No I don’t like this idea, it’s entirely unhealthy when a girl can’t blackmail her husband into submission. Get that “to do list “ out and add a few things to the bottom, got to keep him busy.

P.S. I do love him really

Alison x

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Time is Now..

In general we live our lives at a pace which means we collect regrets like a squirrel gathers her nuts. Fleetingly we enjoy a moment of pure joy, which, we suddenly value greatly, which causes us to reflect on how we live our lives, if only momentarily.

But if we can’t or wont change, the “nuts” of regret get heavier and disappointments can cling like grey sticky cobwebs around our hearts. We feel pulled every which way, by a multitude of conflicting demands. We often dish out our time, haphazardly to others resulting in someone always gets short changed. We try and calm the rising feelings of fear and shame in our minds by justifying the choices we have made and promising to make amends. But somehow we loose our own arguments.

Sunrise-good time to start afresh
Be still now and think, stop and decide to make the best choices you can and accept that you will try and do your best. If you really are not trying hard enough, realise that it is in your own interests to do so. If you honestly believe you are doing your best and making the best possible choices, cut yourself some slack, do it now.

We cannot do more, we need to do less. We cannot wait until tomorrow, to find a window for this and that. The time is now, for now is the only time we have. Let’s make a choice that lets our hearts feel light and full of love, not heavy and smothered in guilt.

Alison x

Friday, 27 April 2012

Check this, check that and check this again!

I don’t have OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder), which would be extremely debilitating and difficult to manage. I can however have a tendency to become obsessive, fixated on particular interests or information.

I read a blog yesterday about a state called hyper-vigilance, which certainly resonated with me. For example, I tweet and blog. I routinely check my hot mail, my connections on Twitter and blogger statistics, It s incredibly interesting to see what methods produce increase in page views and where sources of traffic emanate from. I then incorporate or discard methods according to this information, good tool. It makes sense to use information, but I will double check, go back to hotmail make sure I haven’t missed anything and then quickly check the blogger stats again  in case there has been a “rush on”. This has every danger of getting out of control for me so I have  to set limits and try to observe them, or I will still be in my PJs at 4pm checking and re checking, I can do this. Therefore I think I have the situation under control.

The Hyper vigilance thing though made me think as it was introduced in the blog in terms of its connection with ME/CFS. I have a mild form of CFS and generally manage with it OK, after a debilitating period some years ago.

Before I was ill my husband used to say I was constantly scanning, if we sat in a pub I would have to face the door and watch people coming in and see who was with whom. It’s generally called nosy! I know. I didn’t think I was particularly observant I just thought Hubby was in a world of his own,, he never seemed to notice anything. I used to juggle loads of responsibilities and enjoy having the ability to multi task and decry others for being such plodders. When I was relaxing, I routinely monitored the TV read a book and went over lists in my head. Is it any wonder really I had a crash?

I know this is controversial, the fact that I have pretty much recovered, sometimes attracts responses that I never had CFS in the first place. It’s such a fragile acknowledgement of the condition that those who suffer severely and very long term feel under attack, I think, when there’s any action which might undermine their situation and diagnosis.

This is the last thing I want to do and when I was ill it was very real and I still moderate my whole life to be as well as I can. I wont get into the argument whether I did or do actually have CFS or not. Other than to say I went through the process came out with a diagnosis from a consultant and coped the best I could. I was lucky.

My controversial point is this, is there a type of personality that falls prey to ME/CFS? Is there any credence to the implications of being hyper-vigilant. Now I am more vulnerable, shall we say, I cannot have conflicting noises, (ie TV and talking) I do not like the buzz from being in a crowd and heightened emotions agitate me immediately. Unless I have a reasonably ordered and quiet life everything gets too much for me. The affects are very physical the headaches, the body pain, the fatigue, sore throat, etc engulf me. Sometimes my husband is holding my hand watching TV and says relax, you’re all tense. I check and my legs and arms are as stiff as a board. No wonder I ache.
Relaxing my mind  has really helped me and I know there is more to ME/CFS than an emotional condition its very physical. I hope I haven’t upset anyone it’s the last thing I want to do but do you think how we are and how we respond to the things that happen to us and attack us can put us in a better or worse position in relation to our health?

Alison x. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

I don't want to talk about sex, but.....

What role does media reportage about sex  have in perpetuating certain unhealthy behaviours or trend setting new ones as  an older woman I wonder sometimes if we are being manipulated, by someone who wants us all to be sexually active until the grave. Then I thought well who benefits from this? Besides my husband!

Occasionally we get the horror reports but mainly its a cold rehash served up with a thin topping of how we should all be doing it more, marketing sex  helps sells so many things.

For a start off, the authors of all the “how to” books then there’s the “why you should” books and the “what your missing out on” books. Besides books there is a whole merchandising and service/counselling industry that thrives on this “ sex for ever”, premise being promoted.

So yes there could be a capitalist plot to keep us at it.

But hey! why be sceptical, I don’t have to buy anything if I don’t want to I could just keep abreast of  developments couldn't I. With all this information about how to, etc we are experiencing a rise in STDs. Before the older people out there get all smug dare I say cocky!

There are specific concerns about the rise in STD s amongst the over 50s, so encouraging safer sex is a  good thing, right after all the statistics indicate a reluctance of older men to use condoms.  So lets reduce apathy, but doesn’t this information tell us something more sinister?    That among an age group that should know better there’s a whole lot of very “casual” unsafe sex, going on. (By definition, lacking commitment). The rise of STDs amongst seniors, knocks the shine off “ free love on a pension”, For me it conjures up a picture of Multi partners, experiencing low levels of intimacy, disingenuous affection, more than likely a hell of a lot of deceit and not much satisfaction.

I know this conclusion may seem to be a stretch but advocates of mature or even elderly intimacy point to and stress the health benefits, physical and emotional. of staying sexually active So if we can get everyone wearing a condom it will be cool?

No because this celebration of “senior sex” seems to allude to some pinnacle in human development.  Where emotional neediness is a thing of the past and relaxed physical enjoyment can be truly appreciated for itself, perhaps? Like a good Merlot of a bacon sandwich, no pun intended.

Does my old Bum still look good dear?
For those seeking to start again with someone new, being older surely makes one more vulnerable. Not necessarily mad like a bunny boiler, but sensitive to the risks involved in exposing your wrinkly behind to someone new.

I feel lying underneath the assertion, that we (the over 50s, 60s +70s) should be like rabbits, is the ever present insidious undermining of men and women in general, “If you can’t do this you’re not a real man/woman. Where there is a mismatch of needs in a relationship of course it needs to be managed with love and affection.

Nurse,"Mr Smith?" "yes that's me"

But what about accepting changes, getting older, and trying new things that are really fun and not pressurised?

I don’t want to talk about sex I want to have a laugh enjoy my grumpy old man, my life my family and love myself (no pun intended again). Happiness is the goal, sex isn’t necessarily the ball.  Hey wouldn’t you rather be happy than waiting in a queue at the STD clinic.

(platonic) Love 
Alison x

Thursday, 19 April 2012

To Russia with Love -Привет (Privet)

I wanted people to read my blogs but never imagined how far flung my readers would be. I love the tool on Blogger that lets you see the various statistics surrounding page views, audience and traffic sources.

What this information tells me is that Russia is my biggest audience; I am surprised and intrigued and hope that whoever is viewing my blog actually enjoys the content.

Unfortunately, though I can only guess as I am not getting any comments or feedback at all from this part of the world..

Before I get carried away thinking I am the new sensation in Russia and have a growing fan base. I have considered the other possibilities. Please don't be offended but I even thought crazily  is there some sort of intelligence gathering software, scanning all blogs for any threats to National security? Its possible I suppose and very “Spooks”.

I do get feedback from other countries around the world, America Canada, Ireland,, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and India, which is  great and to be honest quite thrilling for "little old me".

So please anyone in Russia reading my blogs please leave some little note for me, of course I know you have a different alphabet and don’t know how computers are configured to enable you to view my blogs and perhaps you can’t answer I really don’t know and feel really ignorant. Educate me anyone tell me what’s going on here

Всего наилучшего (Vsevo nailučševo)

Alison x

Monday, 16 April 2012

Can A Market Culture be Deadly?

I have never visited India, but the recent tragic death of baby Afreen, in Bangalore last week   makes me count my blessings and gives me cause to reflect.

I am a beloved daughter I grew up with the love of my parents surrounding me. My education was as good as my brothers. At sixteen I left school even though my Mother wanted me to go to college to improve on my qualifications. I began work straight away and as well as earning enough money to look after myself, I paid my parents a small token for my “keep”.  I had a career and succeeded to gain promotion and contributed to a good standard of living for my family.

I married my husband. We met and married as equals.  I would not be the woman I am without his love and support and he would not be the man he is without my love and support. This Synergy creates more than double the energy, as we work together with the agreed values. It means we don’t waste energy disagreeing on our direction..

I am lucky, I happened to be born into a family of wise and wonderful parents. Poverty comes in many guises, no one can be paid to value their daughter, not recognising and valuing the precious gift of a new life, be it a boy or a girl, is to be truly impoverished.

The driving factor of the Market culture where everything has a price or a cost, puts an enormously inflated price tag on a boy child. With it, overwhelming expectations of the boy to become a man who will support and protect his family and be able to carry that weight on his shoulders alone.

Fathers of India if you believe a son is a “saviour “ and more capable of being a provider for his aging parents, than a daughter. Think again.

Daughters of India, survive in spite of a deep and dark conspiracy to devalue them. They succeed even though the cards are stacked against them, imagine if that tenacity, ability and potential was truly nurtured and valued how great things would be, how easier life would be for men to share the load equally.

So can a market culture be deadly? yes it can, not only can it create  pressure to unjustly kill the girl child but it can kill the promise of a brighter more fruitful future.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Are we raising a batch of soft boiled eggs?

Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs. Photo by Diana #2

A lot of criticism is hurled at parents today, it’s a job that requires a hard hat and a thick skin. Because whichever way you turn you do the wrong thing.

For as many variations of families there are, there are styles of parenting. Some people are just not capable or cut out to be parents, some are absolutely fabulous Most of us juggle like crazy in the hope we bring up our children to be safe, happy and accomplished.

It’s true that for quite a lot of today’s parents a good education including extra curricular activities is promoted and provided for their children. However how this is negotiated and actually managed requires logistical capabilities an air traffic controller would be proud of. Because of time constraints and worries about safety, children are taken door to door usually in a car sometimes parents share this to ease the load. But there is no effort required of children, as to where they are going, when they have to be there and what they need to take. These activities are expensive and its much easier for parents to sort all that stuff out, they don’t want little Johnny missing his flute lesson because he left it at home.

So we all know about the taxi service mentality for the children but can it be a bad thing? In a time of “stranger danger”, busy roads and inclement weather.

Parents stand at the touch line of sports fields up and down the country shouting their support. Isn’t that a good thing, interested participating parents?  Their presence is intended to Reinforce high self esteem and give reassurance. We all want our children to believe in themselves and feel good don’t we? There can be dangers in these environments too we need to monitor. After all we know now that churches, sports fields and scout huts can be magnets for sexual predators who seek to groom children with the intent to abuse them. Some parents worry that coaches and other children can if left unsupervised bully or overlook their children.

Then parents who worry about all these external risks relax about providing stimulation, through the use of the latest technology in the safety of their own home. Unfortunately sometimes the youngster’s knowledge of what’s on offer and how to fully exploit the games and computers in their hands far outweighs that of the grown ups and on many occasions activities can be far from, educational, wholesome or safe.

So outside of the home, we carry our children round in a virtual bubble not allowing them to experience things on their own with real people, everything is done for them and any effort no matter how small is praised and any failing pushed to one side or blamed on someone else. We tell them to ignore negativity and take them away from challenges that upset them. Pushing a child into an unpleasant situation is too much trouble anyway.

We encourage use of technology in the safety of our own home and let our guard down because we have security software on the computer. Our children communicate with   “friends” They play games  send photos or images of themselves via the web cam talk live, but when they get bored they switch off they don’t have to show any courtesies., or compromise their way with anyone else’s.  Then there is the possibility that they engage with a new “friend” online and want to take the relationship into the real world and arrange to meet up. How equipped are they?

With our zealous protectionist stance do we make them secretive, eager to shake us off? Worst still do we protect them so much they never feel the jeopardy of their surroundings, feeling totally safe and “bullet proof”  

Lets face it in a blink of an eye they will be 18 (yes really that old) and planning their gap year backpacking around Australia, India, Brazil or Thailand. Are we going to carry their bag? No, so at some point we have to let them get a “bloody nose”  and feel the heat so they can toughen up ready to stand on their own two feet recognise risks around them out there and on the internet. Just hope we can all get it right.

Alison x

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Billion Dollar Question (warning comment about child sexual abuse)

What does our use of Technology reveal about us (Warning not pleasant reading)

I wanted to write something light and funny today but I can’t. When  Mr Zuckerman (Mr Facebook) reportedly hands over a billion dollars for Instagram a question  springs to mind, that keeps banging around in my head.

This Billion dollars, seems to have been swilling about ready for this single acquisition and it tends to infer money is easy to come by and the business of sharing images and all things connected to social networking is incredibly lucrative.

So isn’t it time the people making a successful business out of this technology finally invested sufficient money to use the technology positively to protect all the people who are abused and exploited through the use of the Internet and if not to stop it, reduce it and increase arrests of criminals involved in this evil trade.

What do I mean? Images, still and moving are so easy to capture and distribute now, its equally easy to identify who is uploading downloading and what computers are being used to view images. So if someone is making and distributing illegal images via this or similar technology. They could be identified. More importantly, given the resources it would be possible to trace and rescue children and abused adults.

Its an accepted part of our culture that we communicate via words and images through the ‘net. and nothing is going to change that. This type of technology (Image sharing) does however document more clearly than ever before the more deviant behaviours that have existed within our communities probably since cavemen days. So I am not suggesting the internet is the cause of horrific corruption of our species. What is evident from numerous investigations into child sexual abuse and the distribution of indecent images of children, is that this technology, propels the scale of Image capture, distribution and collection into a new, never imagined stratosphere.

So yes investigations are successfully taking place, but they are so time consuming and can be expensive and law enforcement agencies only have a defined budget to tackle them the surface is only being scratched. The reports in the news of the scale of the numbers of indecent images collected by individuals and the number of individuals driving the demand of new and more graphic images of sexual abuse of children is truly horrifying. In my opinion without the new technologies this explosion of demand and supply would not have happened.

Anyone who thinks viewing indecent images of children is not so serious remember this. The incident really occurs a child is being abused, probably because of the demand for the images and the price being paid for them. Demands include evidence that it is new, dated with current newspapers etc included to show the date. These deviants are proud of their collections and a lot of kudos is attached to obtaining “new releases”.  So this drives new abuse, torture and at times murders.

The element of live broadcasts also add to the horror as “customers” become directors of the abuse. This abuse may happen abroad in some third world country, so it may not be “our “children, believe me some people think that makes a difference. But because of technology and the sheer vulnerability of children this could be happening in a house, a flat, a room near you. These children are real they suffer and are controlled and are not necessarily locked in a dungeon in Indonesia. They might be that quiet little girl who misses school a lot. Or that cheeky kid who is nothing but trouble and runs away from home.
So while this is a billion dollar acquisition I want to know what level of money the industry will contribute to the fight against this awful trade and tackle this huge and growing betrayal of innocence.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Who’s pulling our strings?

Are you the sort of person who can spot a “Hidden agenda” at ten paces? Or are you the gullible type who has to be told by someone else that you have been duped, sucked in, yes Manipulated.

I started thinking about this when I was reading the news online. It ‘s always flooded with celebrity gossip. Who’s pregnant, who’s lost/put on weight. Romance, bromance break ups, real or manufactured? Fashion trends success or faux pas. It’s everywhere and sadly we seem to lap it up with an insatiable appetite.

Is it harmless escapism?    Well with the phone tapping scandal and all we know its far from innocuous. .A proportion of “celebs” may court attention, for their own reasons. But is there a bigger “hidden agenda” why we are fed this diet of spurious revelations and intimate disclosures?

Already accepting its not force feeding, and we do have the option to think for ourselves. I have to ask are we making a free choice. In a society, where neuro linguistic programming, and intentionally influencing peoples decisions is weaved through all the mediums and environments we inhabit. Derren Brown is not the only master of mentalism, others may not be as good or as open but  I believe their practices are played on us all the time.  

So not only are we distracted with juicy gossip, when a  serious  events occur we have no real way of knowing why the “story” has come to our attention on that day, who is pushing this to the fore and what’s behind it.

Lets look at the a recent handling of fuel prices. The threatened strike of Tanker drivers, the advice given to fill up Gerry cans? The date, or time of the month and point in the financial year, the large scale panic buying.

Then surprise surprise, we avoid a double dip recession and experience growth which is good news, but who’s been played? Us?, the tanker drivers?  Have they been Scape goated as the cause of all this panic buying and excuses for price rises. Who led them into this now? The advice, seemed crazy to me and as they say timing is everything. Call me a sceptic, but I want us to be more sceptical about things that matter. Not satisfy our curious natures on the detritus, whether some romance is real or fabricated for media coverage.

There are a host of talented articulate investigative journalists out there come on, dig a bit deeper. The PM eats a pasty and Ed Balls orders a huge amount of sausage rolls and that’s the story?  I am tired of attempts to sucker me and fearful how often its happened without me knowing. I crave integrity, naked truth and ask who’s going to stop pulling my strings and start changing the world?

Alison x

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Would you suffer a fool gladly?

The phrase “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly” takes me back to the days when I worked for a living, I am now retired. It was banded around like some badge of honour in the testosterone fuelled environment that I inhabited then.

Got a new boss coming to join us, if you asked what they were like you’d get this response, like watch out if you’re a fool! Tough super slick guy on the way and I would cringe. It encouraged a culture of intolerance where  compassion was a sign of weakness and there was no place for it.

You can’t help but get sucked into that way of being, you’re either the fool or the one who doesn’t suffer them.

Retiring is good, you get out, away from the crazy performance related egotistical ladder climbers and you are left facing yourself. Sometimes, and it’s pretty accurate in my case, you don’t like what you see. It’s been four years or so now and I wouldn’t say I am changed, I would say I have regained myself.

I get comfort from the Buddhist  doctrine, the most important aspect is “do no harm ”it is also the most basic principle and further steps progress to “taking responsibility for helping others” a proactive endeavour which takes commitment and energy. So where would this toe curling phrase, first written by St Paul and forever taken out of context, sit with a Buddhist way of life?

Firstly the way I understand Saint Paul and I’m not sure here, but I think it was written as a criticism of a group of people who considered themselves better than others (the fools) and therefore put themselves above them considering themselves wise. At times the phrase is used to describe a short tempered grumpy type, but still some sort of backhanded insult/complement. The inference being again they were superior.

Buddhism acknowledges that being good is not entirely altruistic and it can be done for selfish reasons. Because being the good guy feels nice and a lot of kudos can be gained by it. It matters not if good is done. So showing tolerance and patients to someone who is difficult to communicate with or live with is a win, win situation. There are a number of possible outcomes, you may realise they have something important to share with you that you gain from. You take time and figure out that the person can be helped, you get information that you need to help yourself or others. You have an opportunity to influence someone who is doing or thinking about doing something detrimental to themselves or others. The list goes on. The plus side is you did something good and you can feel good about that.

So what about thinking about it like this. Gladly take time to listen to others or suffer like a fool.

Alison x

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A ghoulish sale of Titanic proportions?

An estimated value of 200 million dollars has been placed on relics recovered from the wreck of the Titanic. They are to be put up for auction soon and sold as a single lot. Initial reaction from some descendants of those who lost their lives was strongly against the retrieval and sale of some very personal items, such as a bracelet with the name Amy on it. A piece that could easily be identified and attributed to an “owner” one would think.

My initial reaction was that it was akin to grave robbery I felt uncomfortable with the scavenging through a scene of such tragedy. I thought about an occasion when it is necessary to disturb such emotive debris. Past the time when the search for survivors and retrieval of the dead has gone why would you route through the remains with any justification. 

Obviously a crime scene or an accident where questions need to be answered, evidence amassed to prosecute offenders and learn lessons for future safety. The other situation is that no matter how sensitive or distressing the aftermath at some point it has to be made anew, so life can go on at that place. The Twin Towers springs to mind, such was the horror and loss it could never be a place other than a memorial to the victims and their families, but every peace of debris had to be picked over and eventually cleaned away.

There is an argument put forward that recovering such items and examining the wreck allows us to tell a story and great care has been taken to protect the process in conditions set out by courts and solicitors to authenticate what some see as unnecessary intrusion and uncivilised behaviour. There have been many occasions where in the name of education a “civilised” society has rummaged through another cultures’ sacred artefacts and taken them away for “safe keeping.” Seems to me they were pretty safe where they were, and the process has been subsequently vilified on several occasions and the precious belongings returned to their rightful “owner”. Such as the case of the Aboriginal remains, returned to Australia from a Glaswegian museum last year.

If I were to come across the scene of an accident where everyone was clearly dead and I was able to  examine this closely because I had the means to access the, car , shall we say, deep in a dyke upside down in water, because I had the equipment, a ladder and a crow bar and a snorkel. What if, once after expending energy and using my equipment  I saw property which had been flung from the open boot in the ditch and collected it and decided to keep it or sell it and keep the money for myself. Because otherwise they would be ruined or lost and I found them Would that be any kind of defence when I was standing in the dock? Of course not! Also surely even though I called the emergency services what kind of monster would I be to scavenge amongst the poor dead casualties. Isn’t it easy to see what is right and wrong?

I for one can’t see the difference there is no other reason to disturb the Titanic it is at rest, we should leave it and the memories at peace.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Starting a Horse specific Blog

Hi to my little group of followers I have decided to start a horse only blog, as I rant on about lots of things and these blogs get mixed up with my "adventures! on horseback, so from now on I will chat about Tales of a middle aged Novice  on the following blog http://talesofamiddleagednovice.blogspot.co.uk/.

General stuff will be discussed here on cup of tea and a chat.

Hope you can join me occasionally on both
Alison x

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The ground is hard but getting over it is harder

I talked about my over reaching experience, which resulted in falling off and hurting my back, in one of my previous blogs “catch 22.”I have had a lesson since and thought I could draw a line and move on, but no.

I did see my Doctor about my back and he identified a lack of flexion in my lower back and advised a combination of pain killers and exercises to increase mobility. He also encouraged me to get riding again as soon as possible. My husband said I must of misheard him and looked at me suspiciously, no I assured him, the doctor wants me to ride honestly. I promised Phil I would be careful and not overdo it. At that he smiled knowingly and gave me a hug ”take it easy.” I honestly intended to be sensible.

As it was I was on my faithful Flair and felt very safe, ahh  great. The weather was great too so everything was hunky dory. (See photo the fabulous safe and sound Flair, my schoolmistress)

I had no choice about taking it easy , not too bad in trot but as I cantered I could feel a stiffness in my back and couldn’t really ride with my seat. I was gripping with my knees and couldn’t “pulse “ with my leg , oh get me, with my technical jargon. But I could feel myself lifting out of the saddle as if I would go pop. So I stopped cantering and concentrated on my trot, flexing and generally trying to ease my lower back. And enjoy being on Flair.

The realisation of what I had done and what could have happened hit me as I discussed care of my back with my instructor. She is so careful about how she introduces new challenges for me, the choice of horse everything and I go and screw it up by being impatient. Going off into the sunset on some random ex racehorse and being caught off guard.

How can you get to my age and still be so reckless and immature?  I had been feeling  unwell with my back, with my ME/CFS and the flood gates opened. I want to be good so much I try too hard. I cried like a baby how embarrassing and now I am telling everyone! I couldn’t write for a few days I was so raw and wobbly. My emotions were all over the place.

I sound like a right flaky weirdo getting so worked up about my hobby? Its supposed to be fun right? Its not that though its not that simple, riding, learning, pushing myself trusting other people respecting other people, loyalty judgement success and failure. Its about life how I relate to myself, others and how I try to grow and that very basic requirement, how to pick yourself up and start again.

OK I started over, but not quite I’ve had a cry, “fessed up “ (to everyone) made my apologise, now I must get over it  repeat after me (to myself) “I was a  muppet, I’ve survived, its not the end of the world, I wont do it again, end of”

Love Alison x

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Real relationships or virtual friends ?

Some people say using computers is making us all cocooned from reality. Having virtual relationships through a computer screen, means we have undeveloped interpersonal skills because when we get bored  we log off  controlling our environment in a very clinical unemotional way.

We can be delighted by a cheery message from “someone” we have never met, and
when we are in real company we get our phones out and start tweeting. Which takes us back into our comfortable virtual world. The real conversation fades to a distant hub bub and once again we are in agreeable company.

What are so many people finding in this medium that they aren’t getting in the “real world” can it all be too much, too" in your face".

There has been a growing trend for people to express their feelings more honestly.  Could it be the influence of reality TV where people are encouraged to be honest with each other to make exciting viewing. People who are “nice” all the time are slammed for being cheesy and not real! What’s so wrong with making an effort being kind and considerate of other people’s feelings?

I know there are incidents of cyber bullying which are atrocious and really harmful, but in the main it’s a more controllable environment. There are also a lot of people who can’t get out and about so much and social networking opens up a whole new world.

I for one am in a position to choose who I spend my time with, being retired, I don’t have to deal with office politics. As well as keeping in touch with and seeing friends and family, I enjoy meeting new people and chatting face to face. But when I am tired and resting up I love writing my blog and casting my social net wide, through tweeting. Tweeters can be so interesting too and you can have chances to hook up with people you would otherwise never meet. Yes you can switch off whenever you like. But far from keeping me isolated tweeting has brought new opportunities my  way, so  there is simply no choice, real life or tweeting, like puddings I will have a slice of each please.

Love Alison x

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Love has to be tough, hearts need to be tender

There was initially a cocoon time for me, when I felt I was, at the core of my Mom’s universe and she was the epicentre of mine. I remember tiny fragments of actual moments, with her, which were warm and cosseted, snippets of fuzzy recollections of how we were together. Her back turned to me as she busied herself clearing a pile of ironing the steam hissing intermittently. I would happily chatter on, her reassuring responses, timed to keep me content. Her routine was my routine and we were inseparable.

 Before we ventured out we would dress as if for an important occasion, even if it was to buy potatoes from our, busy musty greengrocers. I would watch mesmerised as she painted her face to life, with a genteel spit into her mascara block, she used the gooey paste, to emphasise her lashes. Then, her mouth wide, lips stretched she pushed on the sticky scarlet lipstick, and lingered to glance at the face I adored.  She was mine and I revelled in her sublime magnificence. She was as glamorous as the monochrome movie stars I would see in the Sunday afternoon films. To this day a glimpse of Maureen O’Hara fills me with nostalgia and reconnects me fleetingly with her. That’s the way it was, until I was four, it was my ‘norm’ and I enjoyed it. It was an unwelcome shock when she changed and no longer wanted me continually by her side.

Mom tried to prepare me for my first experience of separation. My recollections are quite vivid. Initially I was excited at the prospect of going to “school” even though I had no comprehension of what “school” was. All I knew was that my older Brother and Sister went there most days.  This was an intense time; Mom enthralled me with stories of what lay ahead. We were excited together, we went shopping and I was happy to have new clothes .It was as if I was going to a party. To me it was not a preparation for separation, more an opportunity to bond even closer together in this joint enterprise. When it actually came to it, I decided I preferred staying at home with Mom. I told her and expected things to revert back to “normal”. Unfortunately she was made of steel, no heart. All the warmth between us dissipated and she sternly told me there were no “if, buts or maybes about it,” I was going to school. 

Going to school meant walking. My Mom never mastered driving, even though teaching her became almost an annual event. As spring turned to summer my Dad would get the L plates out and gird his loins in preparation.  Alas no, Mom never did learn to drive. On reflection, her inability to grasp the rudiments of driving was totally out of character. Patting her head whilst rubbing her tummy was a doddle, she could knit the most intricate of sweaters while keeping up with instalments of Coronation Street without dropping a stitch. Perhaps she simply preferred to walk, or at least resist the consequences of being able to use the car herself; after all it would mean loosing her chauffeur.

So to go out with Mom meant hopping on a bus or more usually having a “good stretch of the legs”. It was five stops to my new school, a distance of roughly two miles, which meant, to Mom, that there was no need to waste scarce money on bus fares everyday. She assured me that the exercise would do us good, so we walked. More accurately,  it was a long drag of a small screaming child.  I hated school with a passion. Perhaps more fundamentally I hated the fact that Mom wanted to take me there. Moreover she was extremely determined to battle with me every inch of the way and intent on leaving me there no matter how wretched I was.

 At the school gates I was totally inconsolable. My mom tried to peel me off her arms and legs, as if I were some monster from the sea, all sucking tentacles and slime. How could she hate me so much? What exactly had I done? To add insult to injury my teacher joined us and aided my Mom in the final separation. It made an incredible spectacle for everyone; other Mom’s looked on smug because their children had gone quietly inside. Older children jeered and imitated my crying, which only exacerbated my efforts and worst of all Mom’s face became stonier and I felt her increasing disappointment. I gave in collapsed into my teacher’s arms wet face and snotty nose, rubbing up against her prim white blouse. My spirit was broken. There was no point fighting anymore.  My recollection of the following weeks and months are non existent, how I transformed into a child who went willingly to school, I do not recall, I only know that I did, eventually.  I made friends and got to like teachers (well some of them) but I was never entirely happy at school and always felt separate a little apart from the others.

The experience of being separated and “abandoned” by my “mom” was a lasting hurt, which although buried still existed like a tender spot on my heart.

Of course this is an isolated event and as my Mom was my “idol” before I went to school as I grew up and watched her cope with life she became my role model, a woman I loved, admired and respected above all others.

Years later as I myself approached motherhood my Mom talked to me about lots of events in my early life. It was a poignant time as my Mom was terminally ill and as my pregnancy progressed it became imperative to share memories and get answers to questions before it was too late. It was evident that our new baby and her grandmother would never meet. To say my Mom was stoic would be an understatement, she remained calm and brave throughout making visits warm and bearable. She would place her hand on my bump and talk to our baby, telling her stories about me, one story was about going to school.

She found it easier somehow telling Laura, our baby, the story instead of me. Mom and I knew that these conversations, between us, were well overdue and it was easier to pretend they were for Laura’s benefit. What we did not want, especially now was the pain of recriminations and the ugly taste of guilt to taint our last precious days and hours together. I let my gaze fall on our hands which lay on top of each other resting on my bump. We were deliberately forming a connection between the three of us that would never have the opportunity to become more real. Mom’s voice was light as she described my rueful antics and determination at avoiding going through the school gates. All of which I knew, she then shifted in her bed and placed a hand on her own face as if for succour. “Yes, my darling baby, your Mom cried all the way to school and I cried all the way home.”

She turned her head to face me, her eyes moist with tears, allowing a rare glimpse of her vulnerability. Mom had readily shared her joy of life with us, but had regarded it her duty to manage her own demons privately. I had maintained a childlike perspective on this early chapter of my life, selfishly never reflecting maturely, on what it must have been like for my mom to leave her distraught “baby” with strangers and go home alone. We held the moment between us, as if both catching up with the affects of her revelation.  She then went on to tell me that for her too, our time at home together had been very special and that taking me to school was the last thing she wanted to do, but of course it had to be done. I felt my heart grow as if it would burst and the tender spot, so long a weakness in my armour, heal. She thought at the time that I would be her last baby and she had to accept the end of an era. Mom told me that although she hurt inside she remained outwardly strong, hoping that at some point I would get used to  school and be happy again.

It was a matter of days later that she died. I missed her and grieved her loss for a long time and still do.  What I knew by then though was I had always been cherished and the separation all those years ago hurt us both. This time we separated understanding each other’s sorrow, trying to ease the fear. Both knowing I would carry her in my heart forever and she would never abandon me.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Embracing setbacks?

I had such high hopes for today, not breaking a world record or winning the lottery, just baking some cakes and going to a lunging lesson with friends. Its not going to happen though.

I am now resigned to resting and thinking and nodding off, its just going to be one of the those days, when I need to restore my energies and rebalance.

I consider myself very fortunate and blessed, I have had a rough time with me/cfs  but for the last 12 months things have been much, much better.

I live in a glorious part of the country and enjoy the outdoors, I have paced myself up to  decent walks , riding horses a couple times a week and a weekly spot of volunteering at the Forest RDA(Riding for the disabled) where I lead horses around and generally chat and have a laugh.

There was a time when I shuddered at the thought of socialising answering the phone or the retched unease with keeping an appoints never knowing if I would be  well enough.

I have had an array of things that have depleted my energies beside the fall off the horse (nearly two weeks ago) and hurting my back. I have also been a contributor to a TV program. My kitchen has been completely refurbished.  Its been very exciting and unusually busy. The people I have met have been so energetic and bubbly and fun.

Upping my activity and changing my routine does affect me but I wouldn’t exchange this dip in energy for a “normal day” if it meant missing out on these new experiences I have had recently.(the TV thing not falling off a horse)

So it’s a case of three steps forward two steps back, missing a lunging lesson and a no riding lessons for a bit,even. But I will rest and reflect back on the excitement. Cut myself some slack for not being 100% reliable, my friends understand and start again when refreshed.

Because I have got over set backs before they don’t phase me the way they used to. Because its just a blip. I used to fear I would lose all my progress and go back down the black hole, now I know stay calm, rest and be patient. I am lucky I know not everyone with ME/CFS can make progress, so I do count my blessings. Now I am going to count some sheep!
Alison x

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Catch 22

Eureka ! I’ll advertise myself to exercise other peoples’ horses. Then I will have unlimited time in the saddle, great idea? You decide.
Of course I’m honest and say what level I’m at and over a few days I get some interesting responses. I pursue some adverts too and get into really interesting (email) discussions about other peoples horses and their lives in general. This starts to feel like a dating game and I feel nervous and excited about the possibilities. As with all matters of the heart there is the issue of managing expectations, so I review what I’m looking for. I want a friendly owner, who has time to introduce me to their “baby/steed/mount boy or girl” is generous, knowledgeable, and patient. I need a horse that is well schooled calm and forgiving.
However from my research I am starting to realise that “The owner” wants someone confident trustworthy, experienced with plenty of time and initiative to just get on with riding their horse, getting rid of excess energy and fizz and perhaps iron out a few problems as we go. “The Horse” needs someone who can ride them well, who can thoughtfully channel their energy and develop their potential and make riding a joy.
So not a lot of common ground there then, but in the spirit of optimistic optimism, I ploughed on through my emails, yes I do eliminate some because the gap between us was so wide, but decide to take things to a first date with some of the others who whilst honestly pointing out possible issues encourage meeting up.
I will just mention briefly the ones I eliminated, some were described as “sharp when fresh, otherwise a dream for the right/strong, confident rider”, “generally calm and not prone to bucking or rearing 90% of the time”. “A lovely hack but occasionally spooked, better with others but sometimes better alone.”
The first one I met was a beautiful horse is there any other kind? very attentive sucking my zip fob, pushing his head between us, listening in on our conversation and generally part of the family. The yard was pristine with a school and hacking out directly from the yard. Wow I thought, this could be “the one”. I took a friend along to provide an objective viewpoint and I was already thinking perhaps there could be another horse at this yard for her to exercise and we could go out hacking or in the school together.
So he was tacked up and stood quietly in his stall where he lived most of the time. He stood perfectly still in the school for the owner to mount him and show him off. She rode him in a tight 15m circle at one end of the school, he walked and trotted but constantly pulled his head and came off the circle away from “stuff” drifting sideways. He hadn’t been ridden for a while although she had lunged him the night before.! Did alarm bells start ringing? , no I was in love and agreed to have a little ride. She advised it was probably best to stay in her track as he didn’t like the bottom of the school, because he could see tractors on the neighbouring farm. The birds in the hedge on the one long side frightened him and he didn’t much care for the gate going out to the fields at “C” either.
My friend gave me a quizzical look, but I thought “what?” this is great. I got on no problem he stood like a statue, small circle at walk ok ish a bit sideways then he went into trot all on his own and did the wagging thing with his head, then I decided to walk a serpentine to keep changing direction and give his head something to do and he seemed better but I wasn’t happy to do anymore, I got off smiling. Talked about going for a Hack my friend looked startled (what was wrong with her?)
So we spoke to others about this horse and got some good advice. About lunging, turning out, and defining barriers regarding personal space and magnesium. This one, albeit interesting, a challenge and having endless possibilities was not “the one”..
The next one I went to see alone, possibly I knew it was a bad idea from the start. I used to tell my daughter if you can’t tell me what you are doing then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it. Well I told myself if I had a doubt I wouldn’t get on. It was a lovely day and the horse was waiting in the stable. He was lovely, of course and the owner suggested I groom him and tack him up while she got her horse ready and we would go out for a short hack! He was so calm and quiet and stood beautifully for me while I brushed him and lifted each foot in turn, what an angel. For an ex race horse he was so relaxed I thought. I checked with the owner he wouldn’t just go off you know bolt at a gallop. She assured me he never would do that. Before I knew it I was on him and walking out onto the lane with the owner on her much smaller horse/pony..
We walked until a car came along and she asked me to come into single file and he trotted off and I lost my balance a bit and my weight came forwards and then he started cantering I wobbled a bit and then we stopped, thank goodness. The owner told me I needed to keep my weight back I leant too far forward and this made him go onto his forelegs? And he had to catch up. I was constantly conscious of my shoulders. I had a little trot but that was it. I just couldn’t relax.
After about half an hour we came back and went into the school, familiar territory for me I thought. We walked round nicely and then I asked if a trot would be OK with a nod from the owner we went into Trot to canter and then a fast canter and after a tussle a bang of heads and a whip round in the saddle I came off on my bottom. Ouch! I lay there for a while, I could wriggle my toes and fingers but had to catch my breath. The owner was sorry I came off and she told me I had let my weight go forward again, what am I like! I thought I would tell her how sorry I was as soon as I got my breath back and stood up. The owner suggested that on reflection he was obviously too much for me. I think I had worked that out for myself. But I was so disappointed with myself, yes he was too much for me and I was not good enough. You know they say pride comes before a fall, that’s true on this occasion. I can see you wagging your finger at me and tutting and I don’t blame you. What did I think I was doing? I wanted so much to find the right horse to ride so we could create a beautiful partnership. I wanted so much to find a way to become a better more accomplished rider to learn from the horse and for the horse to enjoy our rides.
The fantasy was over I had to face facts I know plenty of you will be screaming yes finally! You are a novice trying to ride an ex-racehorse you nelly!
I have learnt a valuable lesson about over reaching and will continue my lessons but beg the question. If I am going to become a better rider then how? It will take forever at this rate (one or two lessons a week). There are loads of horses out there that need exercising by the capable rider/trainer, but I am not ready for that.
Whats the bit in the middle that I am missing is there help out there for a Novice rider who wants to be “experienced”
PS No horse was hurt in the making of this blog, only a daft human being!
PPS Everyone I have spoken to has been lovely and tried to help me and lots have spent time discussing my situation, thank you Horsey people!
Alison x

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Closing buildings opening something new

There seems to be an attempt to drum up hysteria about the closure of Police stations in the Forest of Dean and elsewhere. Is it justified?

What do we want from the Police? How does the presence of a building frequented by Police staff and possibly open to the public help us?

I would say calm down everyone who is worried. Surely its not where the police station is, that protects us, it’s where the police activity is that makes an impact.  A building is no good if it is closed and the phone outside doesn’t work or no one answers. A police station can’t help or add anything to the quality of Policing when there is insufficient staff on the desk and you have to wait in a queue to be seen by an enquiry officer who then has to phone the control room for a Police officer to travel to see you or meet you at home later.

Also when you pass a police station and see three four or more marked police cars parked outside don’t you wonder what good the police officers are doing being “indoors,”

Better to have good communication and timely responses. The community needs staff who can be directed through proper analysis of intelligence. A building soaks up money not only to heat, light but other needs, equipment cleaning repairing all this before any money is spent on staffing it.

So I want to see our police officers out on patrol, using their cars as mobile offices. Well managed phone lines where calls can be graded and the appropriate response or advice given. Not everyone wants to or is able to go to a Police station.

Just closing a Police station and freeing up money is not the answer, managers need to manage, motivate and respond to the community. They have to support and direct their staff, as every day dawns renewed energy needs to be given. No building can provide that.

Alison x

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Wanted-more time in the saddle- Forest of Dean/ Monmouth

I am re connecting with my love of horses now I have more time. I have been having lessons with the marvellous Hayley Rogers at Redbrook. I am concentrating on flat work and want to develop my aids and that wonderful relationship with the horse I ride. Unfortunately two lessons a week is about the limit of what I can afford. All things horses is expensive and I know it can seem a cheek , to those of you who commit so much to the care and schooling of their horses,but after reading a blog re someone who wanted someone to execise their horse as they had moved on to bigger and better things I thought well if you don't ask!
I don't have land and I just cannot afford my own horse, but I have time a love of horses and riding/school work and intend to continue with my lessons..
So is there anyone out there who would like someone like me to help exercise/school their horses. I dont mind hacking out too but would love to work with someone and their horses. I will be honest I do not want to muck out too much etc. Perhaps I'm crazy asking but please dont be offended I jut love riding.
Alison x