Automation Will Make Robots Of Us All By Kelly Grehan

Many years ago I worked in a supermarket. It was hard not to notice the elderly ladies, who came through the 5 items or less check out every day and who seemed to seep with loneliness and for whom, that brief interaction might be the only time they heard a human voice all day.

Now when I go to the same supermarket the equivalent check out is no longer manned by a human, but rather customers are expected to serve themselves, often while an automated voice shouts orders about the bagging area. I wonder where the equivalent lonely people go now for that brief moment of company buying groceries once provided. With half of over 75 year olds living alone, I suspect there are lots.

There is a great debate to be had about how shops somehow managed to introduce a system where customers perform the tasks workers were once paid to do, with no reduction in prices to compensate. But there must also be concern about the unseen impacts of this.

Research is indicating that workers in countries with higher levels of automation report more physical and mental distress.

But I have real concerns about the decline of human interaction we are facing – so many things we used to do that brought us into contact with another person no longer do, from buying train tickets, paying for the bus to working at home to booking appointments. Almost one fifth of UK adults report being lonely and lacking social connections is shown to be as harmful for health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

There is also no doubt that new methods feel more stressful too. Now in restaurants, the cinema and even bars you can order a drink and be given a glass and expected to serve yourself, again for the same price you used to pay for someone to do it.

A trip to the bank now includes someone harassing everyone in the queue to use the machine instead and by printing our own tickets we now incur all the printing costs with the cost we used to pay to have tickets delivered now rebranded as a ‘booking fee.’

Of course, other areas which were once places of interaction are also in decline, such as pubs and clubs so it is no surprise loneliness is on the rise.

Technology marches on, with no chance to go back, so we must find ways to make sure that ‘progress’ is not at the cost of the mental health of the citizens who it claims to serve. We need to ensure we find new ways for people to connect because lives led in isolation will make us less open to positive human experiences than the robots who have taken our places.

The Shame Surrounding Abortion Is Victory For The Patriarchy By Kelly Grehan

Abortion has been legal in this country since 1967 (well most of it, Northern Ireland continues to cling on to a law made in 1861).  Whilst the criminalisation of termination is no longer in the living memory of many people, a culture of shame surrounding abortion continues to perminate.

 

One in three women have had a termination, but it remains a subject never discussed in polite company and very few people tell family and friends about their experience.  Whereas people regularly announce and ask advice about various ailments on their social media feeds seeking a termination is done in hushed tones –  and so the stigma and assumption of remorse remains.  

 

Earlier this year the BBC drama Call The Midwife, featured a storyline where a woman died as a result of backstreet abortion.  At the end of the episode, viewers were directed to the BBC’s Action Line website that provides information about issues aired in programmes.  Except that this time there was no information about abortion. The BBC claimed the issue was “contentious” and that it could not be seen as “supporting one side”.  It remains unclear what they mean by this, how can providing information about a medical procedure be ‘supporting a side?’  Would they follow this argument through about other things once illegal such as say, equal marriage, committing suicide or marrying someone German?  We can only hope that they don’t think they fact some people fought against changes in all these areas does not mean the bbc think we need to present differing viewpoints on them too. To be fair to the BBC an outcry has seen them apologise for this decision.

 

Abortion should be presented as a medical procedure accessed by some people.  It is not a case of ‘picking a side.’ After all there are some medical treatments which various cultures and groups are opposed to such as blood transfusions and vaccinations but we do not hide away information on how to access either of them lest someone take offence.  

 

Abortion has always been opposed by some, for the simple reason it gives women control over their bodies and situation.  

Does the attitude of secrecy towards abortion derive from the fact it is only accessed by women and the patriarchy dictates that womanhood is defined by the wanting, having and raising of children?

Although most of us are pro-choice there remains in our subconscious, an expectation that women not wanting a pregnancy are a bit odd.  This presents itself in the way women without children are continually asking when they will be having children and if past child bearing age why they did not have any.  My experience is that childless men are not held to account on this matter!  Men do not seem to be judged on their contraceptive failures either!

 

We should move towards accepting that abortion is a common part of life and as such should stop treating it as something that should be shrouded in shame.  Lots of things in life are not ideal, but that does not mean they should be taboo.

The Notion That Some Jobs Are ‘Women’s Work’ Hinders Equal Pay By Kelly Grehan

So, the court of appeal have ruled that Asda’s lower-paid store staff, who are mainly female, can compare themselves to higher-paid warehouse workers, who are mainly male, in pay claims.  

This claim could cost ASDA £8 billion in settlements, but first staff need to demonstrate the jobs are of equal value.

They might find this hard – because any job primarily performed by men is considered somehow harder.  

 

When ever the pay gap is discussed the response is often to point out that women pay the price (literally) for the decisions they make with relation to maternity and childcare, and there may be some truth in that, but there is another issue – all work traditionally or predominantly undertaken by women is considered of less value than work traditionally or predominately undertaken by men.

According to the Office of National Statistics the jobs in the UK with the lowest annual pay are:

● Waiters and waitresses

● Leisure and theme park attendants

● Bar staff

● Hairdressers

● Launderers and dry cleaners

● Kitchen and catering assistants

● Check-out operators

● Care escorts

● School crossing patrol

● Cleaners

● Nurses

● Pharmacy dispensers

● Sewing machinists

● Elementary admin

● Florists

 

It is hard to argue against the fact that most people employed in those roles are women.

 

It is interesting that, 50 years since the machinists at Ford started a strike which led to the Equal Pay Act 1970, sewing machinists remain on poor wages.  

 

Let’s look at some other examples and see if we can find reasons for their low wage:-

 

98% of nursery workers are female.

Most will have spent 2 years obtaining a level 3 qualification.  

Most can expect to earn minimum wage.

Let’s just think about that for a moment – this is one of the most important jobs imaginable – looking after under 5’s; changing their nappies, teaching them to share, teaching them to count, making them feel secure.  

But, somewhere along the line we decided people doing this role were only entitled to minimum wage.

Anyone who has ever been to a florist know it is not cheap! I had naively assumed the reason flowers cost so much more in the florist in comparison to in the supermarket or on the market was due to paying for the expertise of the worker, but it seems not.  

This is another minimum wage occupation.  

It is, ironic that the ASDA ruling occurred on the same day that Jess Phillips spoke in the House of Commons on proposals to impose a £30,000 pay threshold for EU workers to be considered skilled.  

She commented that many of her constituents do skilled work, including nursing, but earn less than £30,00.  She then went on to say “I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one.”

Isn’t this something we have all experienced? People paid lots and you wonder ‘how?’

Are they usually men?

Historically, women did all the unpaid labour in the home.  This is no longer the case, but knocking down the culture that assumes work undertaken by women is of less monetary value has proven hard and hence women earn less.  

If we gave more value to the jobs that are important but are generally paid less then employers might feel more inclined to pay them more, and by default we may begin to address the equal pay discrepancies.

 

 

The Lies We Are Told By Advertising Agencies By Lucy Chapman

“Why is there a picture of a lady on the side, mum and not a picture of a man too?” Is what I was asked by my six year old son as he read the side of the shoe box he was holding.

The shoe box contained the wonderful new trainers he’d picked out for himself in the sports shop. When I told him I didn’t know, he suggested “I think they think they’re just for girls”. I replied that I thought that was odd as girls and boys feet are the same footish shape as far as I knew so there should be no such thing as shoes that only girls or boys could wear.

This isn’t unusual for us, we have had to venture into the ‘girls’ section many times for him to find the My Little Pony t-shirt he was desperate for, or the Shimmer and Shine dolls he had chosen to buy with his birthday money.

This time was different though.

The unintentionally intelligent question and self-derived answer my six year old had put forward made me realise, more clearly than ever before: this is a lie.

Every single time we see a ‘girls section’ sign in a toy shop or ‘boys’ wear’ on a drop down list on a website, it is a lie. These things are not for boys or girls only. There is nothing about them that would prohibit the other sex or gender from wearing or using these products.

So how are they able to label them as such?

My proposal is this; every single time we see that an item or group of items has been marketed as ‘boys’ or ‘girls’, unless there is something that explicitly makes it useable by that sex or gender alone (for which I can think of nothing designed for children), we report it to the Advertising Standards Agency. If enough of us do this, we could eventually see it being made illegal to falsely market something as being for ‘girls’ or ‘boys’.

It takes two minutes to complete a complaint form to the ASA online.

Let’s bombard them with complaints about every label, sign and catalogue page that we see.

Let’s make change.

Let’s not allow the lie to continue.

#letclothesbeclothes #lettoysbetoys #letkidsbekids #callaliealie

Report misleading marketing here:

https://www.asa.org.uk/make-a-complaint.html

Lucy Chapman

Real Stories Inside The Social Care System- How My Loving Family Became Unrecognisable: Part 2 – Anonymous

Continues from part 1 https://theavengeruk.com/2019/02/03/real-stories-inside-the-social-care-system-how-my-loving-family-became-unrecognisable-part-1-anonymous/

I was slowly growing, with no steady income, or father I had to help my mother a lot with my siblings.

We were neglected as my mother resorted to booze for depression. We were a dysfunctional family there were no boundaries nor routine.

Many alcohol users came to the home to ‘party’ leaving us to fend for ourselves. I’d have to cut potatoes into slices and fry them as chips.

Nutella spread was a life saver.

Instant mash for my younger sister. That’s all we knew.  

I thought it was normal because it was continuous. My mother conditioned us well in never being allowed to reveal what happened at home otherwise we would be taken away from her.

That thought frightened us all especially me, as I did not want to be separated from my siblings, I thought no one could take care of them better than I did. So, we stayed quiet; the art of deception and manipulation.

My mother had multiple partners and relationships, I never developed an affectionate bond with her so there were no intimate moments such a cuddles or alone time spent with her.

Her attention was more focused on partying with her pals.

No one cared for us we were just side-lined. My mother often verbally abused us even beat us when we refused her demands or were unhappy with something.

We would all be woken up sometimes in the middle of the night from a deep sleep to accompany her to the shops to buy more booze. I remember all of us crying out of tiredness.

Many times, we would go hungry as she spent welfare benefits on booze.

We were isolated, abused, and neglected. We all had severe headlice, the soles of our feet would be black from all the dirt from the carpet, many times drinks, faeces, and urine would be embedded onto the carpet. Our uniforms would be dirty, naturally we all possessed an unkempt look, our attendance at school was declining through that concerns were raised by school to social services.

Normal checks would be undertaken with us not saying anything against our mother eventually the case being closed. My mother developed a reputation within the area as being the local ‘prostitute’ her promiscuity didn’t help.

We often were teased & bullied due to that. I hated her!

I just wanted her to be normal, a normal mum, why couldn’t she be normal? I’d wonder. 

I thought about my father, what state was he in?

Was he ok?

Would he get well soon?

I formed a hate for my mother she would turn into another person when drunk, a pretentious egotistical embarrassment! We never brought friends over because of the state of the home including her impulsive behaviour. It was all about her, her drink, her party, he music, her enjoyment. We would always come home to a full house and music with drink. my maternal uncles knew my dad left, they included themselves in my mums partying, playing an active role in supplying her with drink. They did not care about us. I developed a thick skin when my uncle tried to molest me with my mother’s approval. Promising to buy me a new phone if I allowed it. I was determined that would not happen by pre- planning my escape and defence if it did. (it didn’t happen) the verbal abuse was bad enough though. I would get so upset sometimes I wrap myself up so tight into my quilt and sob.

Emotional heartbreak!

I couldn’t believe someone that was supposed to love me could hurt be so badly.

No one was there to protect us no one was kind to us.

I’d look at my mother in her skimpy outfits dancing provocatively, insinuating sexual gestures toward men in the home openly.

She knew I was unhappy she laughed.

There was no stopping her-she did what she wanted, the attention was too great for her.

It gave me a gut-wrenching feeling where at times anger would build up, I imagined wanting her dead believing that would give me some release.

1999 I was 11 years old. I started high school. I enrolled myself, went to all the open days on my own dressed in my primary school uniform.

Many children were there with their parents, I was alone.

I got through, settled well made friends and was happy enough. My mother was still beating me especially if I didn’t tend to my younger siblings or clean up before she woke. One Saturday morning I did everything that was requested of me, yet my mother proceeded to grill me about how useless I was, I felt anger instead of being scared.

She continued holding a broom stick waiting to strike.

I conjured up strength from anger, got up snatched the broom held it towards her and said

“don’t you ever hit me again, if you do, I will hit back”

I believe at the moment I would have damaged her. My mother was in shock she used my little sister as a pawn called the police and stated I beat her. The police attended our home I was shaking and crying. The officer spoke to me alone explain indirectly that he knew I didn’t do anything. I was so fearful. He could see I was a lost soul. I said

“I don’t want to be here, I have to stay because of my siblings”

He took a statement and passed it on to the right department.

From that day forward my mother never laid a finger on me or my siblings. I took sole care of them. She went out selling herself for cash or to party. Its as if she was the child and I were the parent.

The roles switched that’s how it felt.

During the summer holidays, on one occasion I went out to meet a friend, while doing so shortly I was approached by a family member who instructed me to rush home. I was not interested until I was instructed again in which I did listen and started making my back thinking this better not be a joke. I walked in and to my surprise my brother was in tears sitting on my mother’s lap with two suited men sitting on my floor I thought “what the hell”

My mum said ‘come near to me’ I declined and sat on the sofa alone. Eyes were all on me (sad eyes) my mum shared,

“Nini your dad is dead”

I froze, I wailed and shook uncontrollably.

“He was arrested for being drunk and was taken to the police station, he had a heart attack in his overnight cell”

I couldn’t even understand that!

A part of me died that day, I totally lost my innocence and childhood.

We attended the funeral where there was an open casket, I saw my paternal grandmother who cried non-stop, the grandmother I did not see in years but loved so dearly as a child.

Nobody cuddled us. Not even our mother.

We saw our dad in his coffin while family prayed repeating mantras.

My fathers’ family were informed of his death before we were and took full responsibility for funeral arrangements. It was a traditional Hindu ceremony followed with cremation.

Very surreal, I was frightful as I thought my dad would wake up, he didn’t. 

Dressed in a dark ash grey suit he lay there with his jet-black hair combed over concealing his bald patch, he looked like a healthy man just asleep.

My father slept rough and drank constantly his health deteriorated linked to alcohol misuse. He lived briefly in a hostel causing a disturbance as he was highly intoxicated, being arrested and detained He was found unconscious in his cell the following morning.

There was an inquest to his death which ruled “death by natural causes” as the autopsy revealed.

He died two days after my brother’s birthday. He was 46 years old.

Age 27 I managed to locate his coroners report and death certificate. That provided me with much needed closure. Two years later from his death my mother didn’t change.

We were all removed from my mother’s care the local authority placing a full care order on myself and my siblings. My mother lost all parental rights, she refused to undergo requests made social services giving her a chance to prove herself as a mother.

It was a hard time we suffered deep emotional trauma.

My mother did not seek to keep in contact with us. (she made many excuses from not having the means to travel, when she didn’t need to our location was 10 minutes walking distance. Her partners, party life was more important, she was free to do what she wanted.)

Now aged 53 she suffers alcohol related illnesses which include acute brain damage. She is alone, isolated & having to take many forms of medications. My siblings are not in contact with her, I have visited her a couple of times for closure, my mother is still in denial.

She still drinks, however I believe she understands what her choices, behaviour, and actions have cost her. It’s too late, we have all grown up leading healthy lives.

Only recently finding out, myself and my siblings were known to social services over a span of 10 years.

So, when I was age 5! There was discord already at the early stages. 20 years ago, was a different time and place but we shouldn’t have had to endure what we did.

As for compassion I find it hard to have for both parents of mine. I have empathy to a certain extent but compassion is different. I lost my childhood, my identity, my family. I wondered for years what love was, what belonging felt like.

It took me a very long time to figure it all out, well come to some conclusion.

I am age 30 with two beautiful boys who are a pleasure! They are thriving and are super content. I share the stories my parents told me with them as it’s important for them to know about their grandparents, even though they may never meet to build a bond. I see both my mother and father in them. I am at peace with everything as I am strong, having built my life the way I want it.

Being truthfully honest, I have had many bad patches, trials and tribulations. I never knew what potential I had until I left my mother, I received intense therapy, which helped build my confidence understanding between love and abuse.

See I never realised fully that my situation was abuse because I always believed parents do not do that. I loved my father dearly, I loved my mother, but despised her choices and actions. I hated my father for leaving, for drinking, for dying! Same as I hated my mother for her abusive nature, her insults, her lashings, her inability to protect and care for me and my siblings. But then I think as from the beginning look at how my parents met, look under what circumstances, look at their own trials coming into this country fleeing all they knew. was its trauma that was never been dealt with?

I don’t know. But what I do know is the power of love is real, I love my boys and I could not imagine them going through half the things I did.

I have my days where I’m on edge because the world can be over whelming, but never would I subject intentional abuse towards my children. They are my world the only biological family I have that are close.

For them, I work hard, I better myself, I strive for achievement and positivity. Most of all I know I want to be nothing like how my parents ended up. I wish I got to know my parents a bit better their drinking clouded their ability to connect normally.

I’ve had to be totally broken in order to fix myself back up again.

I chose to swim instead of sink, I am a survivor.

Very rarely do I open up privately as it is extremely personal, but I realise real stories should be shared in order to help others heal we are not alone!

Nini

Part 1 is here https://theavengeruk.com/2019/02/03/real-stories-inside-the-social-care-system-how-my-loving-family-became-unrecognisable-part-1-anonymous/

 

Real Stories Inside The Social Care System- How My Loving Family Became Unrecognisable: Part 1- Anonymous

Two mountains apart, unable to withstand heat from the sun neither bolts of lightning, their upright posture slowly crumbles descending into a lake where love and hate meet, to separate them would be as trying to remove oil from water’ -They flow together.

My mother and father are of Indian descent, being born, raised, and having lived in parts of the African continent. From my vague recollection (pardon me) both sets of grandparents decided it would be best to flee their homeland in order to escape the remnants of the British Raj (British rule by the British crown in the Indian subcontinent between 1858-1947) hoping for a prosperous future. Original location of residency in India is unknown to me. 

My mother, the youngest daughter of nine siblings spoke regularly of her upbringing in what is called ‘The warm heart of Africa’ Malawi. Attending formal education at an all-girls school expressing her love for singing, dancing, and sharing jokes with peers. I always got the sense from her story telling that she was a mischievous child, her cheeky grin and smirk would confirm I was right in my thinking. Her father (My maternal grandfather) owned a convenience store with my grandmother being a housewife. I would hear of her mother tongue, (Chichewa, official national language along with English) when she spoke to relatives – I was alien to it! However, the happy stories gave me a sense of her free natured childhood spent content.

Similar feelings were felt about my father, as a young child you absorb such stories you hear about your parents with joy & fascination. I believe my father had four siblings, he too had a mischievous streak being born in Kenya (Uganda) he had that ‘Hakuna Matata’ ( No worries) feeling whenever he was around or wherever he went, climbing up coconut trees, visiting the Serengeti & Maasai Mara people, helping them with their animal duties, as well as serving in the Kenyan army for a while. I don’t know whether that is true – my paternal aunty did say his childhood dream was to be a ‘hero’ I suspect being in the army or pretending to be could have made him believe he was one! Convincing others too. My father did attend school finishing his formal education at age sixteen. He spoke the national language,  (‘Kiswahili’ commonly known as ‘Swahili although I never really heard him speak with great depth, only one word from my recollection ‘Jambo’ meaning hello.)

 

In 1979 my father alongside his family left Kenya immigrating to England (London) North West London to be precise. My mother followed suit with her family living within the same areas.

There was a period where African migrants believed their countries were being ‘taken over’ by foreigners a feeling my family could empathise with, so regarding that, many Indian settlers were ‘kicked’ out even forced out by malicious attacks possibly, (which I will not delve into) my point is, it must have been very difficult for the both families. Time passed & healed any open emotional wounds I suspect. I know my maternal grandmother did die shortly after arriving.

How did my mother & father meet?

Well, my parents were Hindus and would attend their local Temple alone or with family to pray and offer their deities blessings. My mother’s account- “I met your father in the temple, it started from there“, what a holy place for an encounter like that to come about.

There’s were no such devices as mobile phones I guess it was all word of mouth. My mother & father were in the courting stages…. Communicating they spoke in Gujarati (my grandparents mother tongue native to India, so yes, my parents were bilingual English not being their strongest language.)

“He took me to the same lovely restaurant every Friday when his wages would come through, he would pick me up in a lovely car dressed smartly with his black zipped leather boots, and off we would go – My mother’s eyes twinkle every time she recalls this memory she also starts blushing too!

In India there is a caste system, society there are set within these systems from birth and by family name.

My father I believe, was born into a family with high caste status whereas my mother wasn’t, however, she wasn’t right at the bottom neither. Just different, that difference meant that their families would forbid a marriage. You represented your caste, marrying outside that would bring disrespect and shame onto the family name.

My mother came of age, where an arranged marriage would be proposed, her elder brothers alongside her father would choose someone suitable from back home which they did. The man was brought over to England for the ceremony, but it didn’t last long he was sent back due to not meeting the criteria to obtain British residency.

Being told by my mother to wait and within time they would be together again! He fortunately didn’t/couldn’t wait and married someone else having children. Yay! I’m glad as if it went according to plan I would not be here!

My mother’s heart did break, however, she was adamant that she would choose who she wanted to be with, which she did my father. Both being aware of the caste system including the family’s disapproval. I firmly believe at that time my father was a secure figure in my mothers’ life she formed distrust towards her family regarding the arrange marriage that failed – that wound was still fresh in many ways.

My father provided a safety net for her which she needed. They continued their dates which flourished into ‘love’ that love resulted with me being the product. My mother was pregnant! That I guess was a happy moment, things needed to be well within all angles of their life. Both families did disapprove. Resulting in my parents being forced to live in a hostel.

My father was a motor mechanic by trade securing financial income. Things were ‘very real’ for them now, living alone only having each other. My father was close to his family I suspect my mother was too, so emotional hardships did playout. Maybe the progress of pregnancy and baby arrival could swing the external family to make amends.

Yes!!!! It did! I was born overdue.

“You were born at 40 weeks, the midwives had to induce me. It was a hard labour, you weighed 8 pounds had a full head of black hair, was chubby, with big brown eyes.”

“everyone loved you, including all the hospital staff. I was poorly so the midwives would tend to you I was afraid of kidnap. I would awake and stumble out of my bed, making my way to the nursery to find you-and you were there my baby girl”

Both external families came to visit at home, with presents and eagerly wanting to hold me. Both my grandfathers held me. Proud moment for both my mother and father- that was an Indian custom I guess in terms of blessing perhaps. All was sweet.

“Your father was amazing, he helped so much, made your bottles, changed your nappy, and held you constantly, hating leaving you. He called you his Nini” (my pet name)

I grew up in the hostel until age 2 years. I remember an incident vividly. I hurt my right foot running around – it was painful I cried, my mother and father hoisted me up onto the kitchen counter, reassuring me my dad rubbed some ‘Ghee’ on it (Indian purified butter) I guess it was one of the household remedies of that time. Soon after we moved into a lovely two-bedroom house.

It was great, we had a garden, lovely peacock mirror on the landing, and stairs leading to our rooms!

I loved it I had some very happy times there. My mother cooked wonderful Indian dishes the smell of a mixture of spiced seeds popping in a hot oiled pan. I started to despise my mother’s traditional cooking once I started school (loved English dinners) My dad would work close to home as a mechanic – we would take him lunch sometimes on weekends. Soon after my brother was born. Family would from time to time visit. I loved when my paternal aunties would visit, they were kind, always beautifully dressed, and brought lovely gifts. They had a close bond to my dad it was evident to see. I felt loved!

I thought what a great family!

My paternal grandfather died before the birth of my brother, my dad was distraught. From then, we would regularly visit my paternal grandmother at her house, she never came to ours. That didn’t bother me as I was so excited to see her – I loved her! We would be a couple of minutes from her front door, she would know as she would see us from the window -she’d open the door- that’s it I’d be off, I would run as fast as I could and give her an almighty hug. The feeling of her soft silk white sari pleated waist down with red & gold design. I knew she was my dad’s mum, and my dad was my dad, we all looked similar. My father adored her as she did him.

My father hated leaving my side, I hated leaving hers. Her home was big and beautiful, she had the sweetest smile and caring nature toward me. Her garden was something else! Out of this world all the different plants and flowers were amazing my favourite were her collection of primroses.

I felt so excited and happy there. I wish those visits were made more often as well as fairly. 

My father’s trade boomed. He would work not only in the garage during the week, but to be close to us at home he would fix clients cars during the weekends by appointment.

I admired my dad- “look at me Nini I’m so strong I am carrying an engine of a car

I don’t know if it actually was an engine. His hands and nails would be covered in black oil! He had very strong hands. How cool was my dad I thought at the time?  His clients knew he was good at his job he would fix a problem soon as. Sometimes during the weekday’s clients would pop up to the house assuming he would be in if there was an emergency. Sometimes they would wait or go over to the garage, or decide to come back the next day.

See, the device such as phones just wasn’t available (mobile phones, not everyone could afford them) business was healthy leaving not much time however to visit friends or family.

Both my mother and father would take it in turns with school runs. Our first ever family car was a bright yellow mini! I was ecstatic being driven into school in that car. My dad always made jokes sometimes without the car he would pick me up, the class door would open and he would be there with a gigantic smile with both arms stretched out. He would pick me up twirl me around and place me sitting on his shoulders. I felt on top of the world. I was age 5. From then on, he would sit me on his lap during the evenings read books and at the end ask,

‘M”what would you like to be nini when you grow up’? ‘‘erm…. A nurse”

That answer would be the same for many years following.  My father played with both myself and my brother lovingly. We would all watch Tom and Jerry chuckling all the time!

One day, my mother picked me up from school, I got through the door went upstairs to change into home clothing while my mother started on dinner. Our house phone was upstairs for some strange reason that is unknown to me. The phone rang, I was commanded to answer I did so.

“hello”

“hello, is your dad there?”

“no, he is at work”

“Oh, what about your mum?”

“she is busy cooking”

“I’m going to tell you something about your mum, she is very naughty, she has been very naughty”

I hung up on the unknown caller as I could not recognise the voice. I froze with confusion not understanding what that man meant.

I went downstairs informing my mother of the call but not telling her about the “naughty part, neither questioning her“at that moment I felt fear.

Then it was all forgotten about.

Another occasion I was dropped home by a family friend whose child attended the same school. When reaching home, in the hall-way I saw a new small, elegant mahogany table with our home phone placed on it. I fell in love with the table rushing into the kitchen to ask my mum if I could clean it?

There was a man in the kitchen, a man that was familiar to me, one of my dad’s clients…

I said hello didn’t batter an eyelid and proceeded to obtain the things I needed to clean that beautiful table. I spent hours cleaning and polishing it until my dad walked through the door.

“Hi dad, guess who was here today?”

My parents continued to speak Gujrati, I understood the language being able to speak it too, but preferred to answer in English. When amongst social gatherings we all would speak both English & Gujrati (translation method)

My mother walked out of the kitchen and gave me such a stern look as if to say “you tell, and I will punish you”.

I changed the subject as quick as I could telling him about how long I spent cleaning the table. Within that moment I learned about the art of ‘deceit and lies. I felt uneasy and couldn’t understand why she would not want to tell my dad.

I became protective over my father.

That phone call soon played on my young mind and something did not feel right especially being an open family sharing everything, so secrecy was very new to me.

My mother was having affairs and was promiscuous with my dad’s clients/friends. They were to blame just as her. My father was working, I was at school, my young brother was at home with my mother who had some time to herself now knowing what she decided to use her time on.

My father did find out, as jokes at work were made, he would confront my mother who denied it outright which sparked horrid arguments.

My father would be kicked out on many occasions on purpose so my mother could full-fill her desires privately. It wasn’t private as I could see, hear, and understand whereas my brother couldn’t. I became angry at how my dad’s friends could be cruel including my mum.

I learned about betrayal.

I was a child helpless caught in that horrible pit. Those clients never stayed long -they only wanted one thing, after knowing that, my mum would then rely on my dad. She would become bored and do it again. My father willing to forgive to save our family. I guess temptation was to strong my mother couldn’t resist.

She couldn’t resist it even for the sake of her children.

We were broken from that point on as a family.

My fathers work and mental health suffered. He resorted to alcohol, my mother was pregnant with her third child my half-sister. Yes, biologically my dad was not her father, my mother convinced him he was, when in fact she was his client’s, his best friends’ child!

I knew as he would always be around – I hated him. I remember stabbing him in the eye with a pen as he sat on our sofa. My mind is blank as to watch happened next.

My father thought ok fresh start, another kid on the way maybe this could work. Until my sister was born my father looked at my wrinkly sister and had no doubts then, he gave her his surname actually believing my mothers lies. I was age 7.

I felt so helpless having no power to tell my dad the truth. My mother held all power, she held authority over all of us. While at school I’d forget the tangled situation of home until it I went home having to live it.

We stopped eating around the table, we didn’t play anymore with our parents, I had to help my mother with my brother, I was left alone watching tv for long periods while my mother napped and my father drank until he passed out.

 

We decided to move away seeing as we all wanted a fresh start as there was a new baby. Things were content for a while. I noticed my dad consume more alcohol than usual.

I was worried, very worried.

I looked out for my brother and sister. My sister was aged 8 months my dad went into melt-down as her hair was not like mine or my bothers it was afro-Caribbean textured. I believe that was the demise of my dad. Arguments broke out constantly, police visits occurred constantly. My mother’s promiscuity continued.

My sister was born in 1995. 1997 was the last time I saw my dad.

He left and never came back!

By that time, he was a chronic alcoholic. No one really supported him not even his family as he turned out to be an embarrassment.

Many injunctions were set on him in court to not come to the house, when he did my mothers boyfriends would beat him up! I’d scream crying as my dad was no match for them drunk. Before, when he could carry a car’s engine maybe he was tough then.

They had no mercy.

Maybe his violent language wasn’t great but we as children didn’t need to see that.

I felt abandoned & frightful. I didn’t feel secure with many different people being in the house. I constantly was on ‘autopilot’ in defence mode waiting for something bad to happen. On many occasions there would be fights, screaming, shouting, smashing of glasses, and banging of doors.  The smell of spilled whiskey & coke would swamp the home. My mother loved spirits two bottles could be consumed within one day, with the repeat pattern taking place the day after. Clouds of cigarette smoke would engulf the entire flat invisibly tarring our lungs…

Part 2 continues here https://theavengeruk.com/2019/02/03/real-stories-inside-the-social-care-system-how-my-loving-family-became-unrecognisable-part-2-anonymous/

 

Why We Are Using “International Zebra Day” To Highlight A Rare Illness By Lisa Mulholland

31st January is “International Day of The Zebra” and the Ehlers Danlos Society is marking the day in a big way! They’ve asked Ehlers Danlos Syndrome sufferers like me to show our zebra stripes to raise awareness of the condition.

This blog post is my way of wearing my zebra stripes and showing solidarity to my fellow zebras, who include my friend Bev and her children.

You’re probably wondering what Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (or EDS for short) is and what on Earth it has to do with zebras… well don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

Most people and many medical professionals are unaware of the condition (although it is becoming more well known) which is exactly why we need a day of the zebra… still confused? Read on!

Back in the 1940s the medical profession coined a phrase to help its students diagnose conditions that they would likely face in their careers:

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras”.

In other words look for the most common answers rather than something rare, like EDS! That is why the EDS community have chosen the zebra as their mascot.

This metaphor underlines the difficulties that we face when entering a doctors surgery or hospital, where we are often faced with professionals that are only looking for common conditions causing years of confusion and misdiagnoses.

So what is EDS?

EDS affects the collagen in your body. Collagen is best described as the glue that holds everything together. It’s in all your organs, muscles, ligaments, skin and soft tissue. Normally a person’s collagen is like a flexible but tough glue, allowing your body to function normally. However for an EDS sufferer it is more like stringy chewing gum, easily stretched and unable to support the body as it should.

Having EDS effects everyday bodily functions such as walking, writing and any impact activities. It effects your digestive system, your heart and other major organs.

There are currently around 10 different types of the condition. With vascular EDS which majorly affects the heart and veins; being the most severe form.

The problems associated with EDS are endless and confusing. This wonderful organisation explain further and help with research into the condition :https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/what-is-eds/

I was first diagnosed with this condition, four years ago, when I was 35 years old, after years of unusual medical problems that left doctors scratching their heads, including:

  • Fainting for no obvious reason, with my heart rate plunging into the 30s (most people would be in the emergency department with this)
  • Repeatedly dislocating my hip but also partially dislocating things like my knees with no trauma or obvious reason. Every single day.
  • Not responding to local anaesthetic. My body just rejects it.
  • Chipping my teeth or partially dislocating my jaw after doing something minor like eating an apple or a crusty roll.

This is just a tiny snippet. It really is unusual and seemingly endless.

Once when I was 5, a simple cold made my liver swell up and I was unable to move. I was rushed into hospital and the doctors suspected meningitis, tuberculosis and all sorts but ultimately I just randomly recovered and that was the end of that…. until I got my diagnosis of EDS . 30 years later…

Sat in the rheumatologist’s office after years of failed physio therapy attempts to stop my joints popping out of place, she fine tooth combed by entire medical history and then she explained “Everything is caused by your Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Everything”

Even my heart defect. And even that one weird time when my uterus ruptured during my third and final cesearean section.

All weird. All seemingly unrelated and yet now I was being told that they were all related and all could be easily explained by EDS.

It was a shock. And it was strange and scary. And at that time, I knew no one with the same condition as me. Trying to explain it to people they would look at me like I had three heads. There’s been many times since my diagnosis where my own doctors have to google EDS as they don’t know what it is.

Finding others that have EDS has made my knowledge grow. Groups online have taught me so much about how to manage my condition on a day to day basis. The phrase “ knowledge is power” has never meant more to me than when I realised that I could prevent jaw dislocations by changing the way I eat. That a certain cushion could support me in my sleep and prevent a partial shoulder dislocation in my sleep… it really helped. It hasn’t solved the issues completely but it’s enabled me to have a small feeling of control over something that in the past I’d never had control over before.

So when my good friend’s child was faced with years of quite serious and debilitating illnesses, all seemingly unrelated, with numerous hospital stays and ongoing tests; I saw a familiar pattern emerge.

I recognised it all. Doctors were left scratching their heads over Ava’s medical problems until they finally diagnosed her with EDS at the young age of 8, and they then started to look at her little sister Bella and my friend. They were all diagnosed shortly after. And although it saddened me, it also filled me with hope that the medical profession was finally starting to think ‘zebras’ instead of ‘horses’ when presented with a child and her family with a series of medical problems. It also made me want to be able to help my friends and fellow zebras.

To help with giving them some power over their diagnosis, and to help make sense of it all.

When the Ehlers Danlos Society produced a book for children to help them deal with EDS, I just had to tell my friend. They explained it in such a lovely way and used the zebra and it’s beautiful rare stripes to bring a sense of pride and ownership over having a unique condition to life for children.

And so today, little Ava and her family, me and my children, and many other zebras will wear our stripes today.

And we hope that seeing our stripes will make you wonder and ask why the stripes? Why the zebra?

So that we can explain and spread awareness. And maybe that one day doctors and the medical profession will think differently and help diagnose us sooner.

Thank you to Beverley Smith for allowing me to tell part of your story.