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On Self-Policing Society (Or on being failed by Warwickshire Police)

26 Aug

Take a look at the fire that I’ve used as the featured image for this post. What you’re looking at is two living Trees and someone’s fence going up in flames, at it’s height the flames reached about 15 meters into the air. This took place on Tuesday 14th August at 7:55pm. The fire was on  a piece of council-owned land in Rugby, between the roads of Wentworth and Saunton and less than 20 meters away from the bottom of my garden. I personally witnessed two youths start this fire and reported as much to both Warwickshire Fire Services  and Warwickshire Police who, despite the fact, chose to do nothing…

I used to have raging arguments with my Dad. He, like his father before him, had grown up in a community that policed itself. In the little mining communities of Wales and Kiveton Park, 10 miles outside Sheffield, as a rule, youths didn’t go around in large groups causing mayhem. If they did, it would not be the local bobby who was called! No, the community dealt with their own. It was truly self-policing; the ring leaders would be singled out and introduced to the ‘fear of God’ and the problems went away. We call this vigilantism today and it’s frowned upon in polite society; I’ve always believed in the rule of law, that self-policing is too wide open for abuse to be tolerated and that we should trust in a police force and legal system that we pay a vast whack of our taxes to maintain. On the 14th of August 2012, I witnessed and reported a serious act of arson close to my property and the law, I’d put so much faith in for so long, failed me, failed my family and the things I’ve worked hard to have.

Me and Dad fought when he extolled the virtues of a self-policing society, but he sagely warned, ‘that’s fine, trust in the police, but what will you do when the people and things you care about are threatened and the police aren’t there, won’t help. Will you stand up and protect it yourself?’ I honestly believed that he was wrong, that would never happen so it was pointless even considering. I’m considering it now…You see, last night I witnessed the same youths responsible for the fire, throwing stones and eggs at moving cars, causing several to swerve dangerously. Again, this was reported to Warwickshire Police and again Warwickshire Police, who at least had the decency to show up this time, did nothing.

Am I being naive? Are arson and endangering people’s lives no longer crimes?? Did I miss that memo?

It hasn’t just been the arson that that I’ve witnessed or the reckless endangering the lives of drivers, no this has been going on for months now. A large glass ashtray smashed upon our patio and narrowly missing our glass patio table, our garden has been repeatedly strewn with rubbish, broken CDs, DVDs while the youths consistently use vile and threatening language against myself and my wife. All these things have been reported to Warwickshire Police who have done nothing despite the fact that the behaviour clearly continues to escalate, taking more and more violent and destructive forms with each passing day. Warwickshire Police have failed us with their disinterest and ineffectual policing. So what now…

I’m considering my Dad’s words like never before:

but what will you do when the people and things you care about are threatened and the police aren’t there, won’t help. Will you stand up and protect it yourself?

I think I already have my answer…

I will continue to use this post to detail further escalations of their behaviour, hopefully, if nothing else, it may shame our local police force in to action before someone gets seriously hurt.

Note on Naming and Shaming  

I have so far resisted naming, shaming and posting the pictures that I have of the youths involved, but this may change if there is continued escalation.


Today I cried and then I smiled

6 Apr My Mum writing her journal in Kenya

Eight years ago today, I was sat beside my Mum, Jaki’s, hospital bed holding her hand as she lost her fight with Pancreatic Cancer. Her ravaged body barely rippling sheets, I remember it like it was yesterday, every moment right up until the end. People always tell you that the grief gets easier over time, this is a beautiful lie, my pain today is the same as it was back then. It’s just no longer an open wound, but an ache in my heart that I carry around with me every day, I wouldn’t trade this pain for anything. But this is NOT a post about pain or about death, that is not what my Mum would have wanted; I told her I was proud of her when she was in the hospital, she told me to stop being so bloody morbid. So this is not a post about death, it’s a post about life, my Mum’s life, it is a celebration of that.

It’s funny the things we remember…

I remember she used to make up a flask and picnic for me and my best mate Mark even though we were only going round the block and would never be more than 200 meters from our house.

I remember she’d watch me and my little brother like we were made of gold and the look in her eyes, drenched with love and pride that we were her sons.

I remember her making me Snowballs at Christmas, my first tastes of alcohol.

I remember the way she used to laugh, without restraint, and the way it would to light up her face, I used to love making her laugh.

I remember she used to come and watch me play Rugby; even though she hated the game and thought I’d only end up getting hurt, which I mostly did, she’d be there on the touchline cheering me on.

I remember the efforts she went to to teach me a moral code that I spent so much time rebelling against in my teens but a code that I now try to live by every day of my adult life.

I remember her faith, belief in a God that I’ve never found, but that gave her strength.

I remember every time I let her down, the momentary dimming of her adoration was often more than  punishment enough for my transgressions. I remember the warmth of her forgiveness.

I remember she used to hate just about every girlfriend I ever brought home, listing the reasons it would not work out…she was mostly right, though often for the wrong reasons.

My Mum was the first person to recognise I had talent as a writer and encouraged me to read widely, she is one of the reasons that I still write today. I always had the desire to write, but my Mum (my Dad too) spent hours reading the things I wrote and time thinking of comments on them, to try and help me. She used to swell with pride that she could not hide when I used to talk about length about how one day I’d be a famous writer. She would listen to me ramble on and then smile, telling me that she had no doubts that I could do and be anything that I put my mind to.

My Mum wasn’t perfect, she had a temper on her, there was a fiery intensity, I have that immutable fire burn inside me too. We used to fight a lot, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realised most of our fights stemmed from our similarities, not our differences. She did not want an easy life if that meant not doing what she thought was right; I have that too and it gets me in trouble from time-to-time just as it used to do for her, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I stand up and challenge something I think is wrong (I certainly don’t always get it right) I can feel her words coming out through my open mouth and it is these times I feel closest to her now that she has gone.

I’m not happy with this post, perhaps I will add to it over time, perhaps I won’t. The memories flow so quickly that it’s hard to pick them out and focus on a single one long enough to write it down, but this is the problem with a flawed post written by a pillar of salt. We are not intended to look back too much, we lose focus on the present, but today I cried and then I smiled, remembering my Mum.

I love you mum.

I miss you…

Eva Cassidy – Fields of Gold

Check out the great work work done by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK, two charities very close to my heart.

I’m adopted and you can hear me talking about my adoption on my Audioboo account

Memory through Music

22 Nov

I was inspired to write this post by Jules Jackson who wrote a brilliant post called The Soundtrack to Your Life, which I’d recommend that you read…

Despite a total lack of any musical talent (anyone who has heard me singing in the shower can attest to my total inability to carry any form of tune) music has always played a huge part in my life and I find it one of the greatest evocations of memory.

Here are ten memories and the associated soundtrack:

I’m 8 and we are going away to Cornwall in the caravan; it’s the first time I can remember my Dad treating us to his tastes in music. He sings along, capable of carrying a tune and sometimes Mum chips in too; she sings a line here, a chorus there. We listen to the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, Cat Stevens, The Carpenters…I remember Follow the Sun by The Beatles most of all: hopeful but sad and a taste like Werther’s Original.

I’m a little older, maybe 10; we’re going away in the caravan again and I’m allowed to sit in the front seat next to my Dad, who is driving. Mum and little brother, Rob, sit in the back. Roy Orbison is Mum’s choice, one of her favourites. There is the repeated refrain ‘Mercy’ at the end of verses and, each time, Mum tickles my ears, which makes me giggle…we all laugh.

It’s 1996 and I’m 14; this is my favourite track from the first music album that I ever buy, the debut, self-titled, album from Savage Garden. I listen to it constantly for months, it’s exciting and it’s mine. Years later I will still remember this feeling each time I buy a new album.

It is 1999 and I’m 17; I’m in the Gatecrasher Superclub in Sheffield. My hair is long, but gelled into hugely improbable spikes and I have swirling patterns made from dots of UV paint all over my face. People have travelled from all around the country (and some much further) to be here on a Saturday night. It feels like being a part of something amazing, a huge mass of people intent on nothing more than dancing and having a good time. This track is playing and a man I’ve never met before tells me he loves my hair, we exchange a sweaty hug and he dances off into the near-dark, grinning broadly. I grin too.

It’s 2001 and I’m 19; I’m at the University of Warwick studying for my degree, the serendipity of chance leads me to meet a fellow student who plays me this track, I’m enthralled, want to hear more and so begins a love of Trip-hop and especially Tricky. The student’s name is William Snow, we spend hours-on-end chatting and laughing together. Neither of us know it, but the future will see us become the dearest of friends; he is Best Man at my wedding, my thousandth man, as Solomon says.

It’s 2002, I’m 20 and the time is 5am; Will and I are walking back to our summer home, across the exposed Gannel Estuary after a night in Newquay’s clubs and beach parties. We are both intoxicated, giggling, silly as we stumble across stones and wet sand sharing stories and secrets like gold and jewels. We start singing this track by Roots Manuva, alternating a line each, until we have finished when we begin again. Before turning in we agree it’s some of our best work, we laugh; we both have work in 3 hours, but it does not matter.

It’s 2004 and I am 23; I’m at a bar with friends when I first see her. It is like I have never seen another human before, I stare, I can’t look away. My friends are talking to me, but I don’t hear, they have faded away and it is just me and her. She comes over to speak to me and it’s exciting but familiar. One day this vision of beauty, spotted in a bar, will be my wife. From the beginning she is the reason I wake up happy, she is my friend and companion, lover and confidant, she is the radiant light melting the frosty dawn and I love her eternally.

It’s 2005 and I’m 24; we are in the church in the village of Wales where I grew up and we are surrounded by all our friends and family. Everyone is sorry, everyone is tearful, we are all gathered there to say goodbye to my Mum, Jaki, who has lost her short battle with Pancreatic cancer. I am touched by the sea of faces that occupy every single pew, that lined the side of the church when the seats ran out. Eva Cassidy sings Fields of Gold and I finally crumple, cry against my family. I am afraid that the tears won’t stop, I come to learn that they don’t, they only slow as the happy memories return. I miss my Mum.

It’s 2006 and I’m 25; we are surrounded by our friends and family again, this time the circumstances are much happier. It is our wedding day, it is the happiest day of my life so far, we are dancing our first dance to James Blunt’s Your Beautiful and I am carefully avoiding treading on Lara’s feet. At the end of the dance, she smiles at me and it’s amazing; I know I will carry that smile down the ages, that it will light my darknesses and warm my nights. I am content.

It’s 2011 and I’m 3 days away from my 30th Birthday; Mos Def’s Umi Says is playing on my laptop as I write this blog. I have never grown tired of this song since it was first played to me and it never ceases to make me smile. I’m smiling now, remembering and smiling.

So, now to finish, just like Jules:

So what I would like to know is:  What is the soundtrack to your life or your life?

We all have them so share…

What Remembrance Day Means to Me

10 Nov

I remember we always used to go to church on Remembrance Sunday. There would always be a big service of remembrance at our local church and, dressed in our best, the whole family would go. Sometimes there would be service men there, some young some old and whenever there was, my mum would always go over and speak to them.

I was about 8 or 9 when I first overheard exactly what she said to those men. It was beautifully simple: ‘Thank You’. When we got home I asked her, with the innocence of childhood, what she was thanking them for and this is what she said: ‘I thank them because they have made great sacrifices so we can enjoy the things that we enjoy today!’  I was confused and told her we had learned at school that war was terrible. She explained that wars were terrible, but that wars were never started by the people who ended up fighting them (I learned later many, too many, fighting wars were little more than children). She made me promise that, however my opinions of wars might change, my opinion of servicemen and women should not. It was important to her that I ‘should never stop being grateful for the sacrifices they make’. I never have.

Today I’m wearing a Poppy. Today I’m remembering. Today I’m remembering my Granddad and everyone else who has fought, suffered and lost in wars. Today, as always, I am thankful for the sacrifices made by our armed forces.

If you’re reading this, I’d ask you to remember that today your opinion of wars is largely irrelevant. Today is about the people for whom war isn’t simply a subject to be debated philosophically from armchair safety, today is for those brave heros who lived and suffered through wars. Lest we forget!

Well that’s my difficult first post out of the way. Feeling quite good about it. If you’ve read this post and don’t like these thoughts, stick around I have plenty of others.

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