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.

Does the British Public Value the Welfare of Animals More Than The Homeless? By Kelly Grehan

Last year nearly 600 dogs died on the streets on the UK, whilst the number of dogs sleeping rough has increased by 168% since the tories took office in 2010.

Once a rarity, it is now common to see dogs sleeping in doorways, their fur matted, exposed to the elements and to see them searching through bins looking for discarded food to eat.  Lacking means to seek somewhere to live, these dogs, some little more than puppies often suffer from terrible health issues – both physical and mental and without major changes to the system it is hard to see how their situation can improve.

 Can it possibly be right for any dog to be sleeping outside?  Is it not shameful to imagine them being taunted, attacked and ridiculed as they attempt to sleep on our filthy streets up and down the country? Most police authorities do not record data on attacks on dogs, but a recent study by The Guardian gained data from nine forces in the UK which found there were 4,940 attacks recorded against homeless dogs increasing from 493 in 2014 to 1,259 in 2018.

The information in the paragraph above is all accurate…but… you need to replace the word ‘dog’ with the words ‘homeless people’ for it to be true!

I wrote the first section above in that style because I wonder if, the people discussed above were, infact,  animals, if their would be a stronger outcry and a more active response would be generated than it is for humans.

 

Despite the massive rises in homelessness since the tories came to power in 2010, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire recently said that government policies were not to blame and that homelessness is the result of ‘complex factors.’  

While no one disputes that there can be complicated reasons why someone can find themselves on the streets it make no sense why these complexities would have somehow disappeared under the previous Labour administration, only to return on an upward gradient upon the tories regaining office.  

Could the rise be the result of cuts to housing benefit and reduced funding for homelessness services, as well as a lack of affordable homes and regulation in the private rented sector, perhaps? 

In 1999 the Labour government announced its’ intention to eradicate the ‘scandal’ of homelessness. Beneath that objective, the government had put in place the right policy making apparatus to ensure it was delivered. 

The highly effective Louise Casey was appointed head of the Rough Sleepers Unit In December of that year a major report, Coming in from the Cold, set out the measures to reduce rough sleeping by two-thirds by 2002 – which it achieved.

It is nothing short of tragic that all the good work has been undone, not least for those who find themselves sleeping on the streets, but also for what this state of affairs says about us as a society.

Aside from rough sleepers – the visible sign of our failed society – there are all the other people for whom their housing situation continues to ruin their lives.  Having a job no longer insulates you from such problems – indeed the gentlemen who was rough sleeping who died just before christmas had a job!

82,310 households were in temporary accommodation in England, in December with more than 123,600 minors, marking 70 per cent increase since Conservative government came into power.  Shelter claim that 78% of the rise in homelessness over the last six years was due to people being evicted from privately rented homes, leaving them to try to find money for deposits and the other costs associated with moving with little warning or opportunity to save.  

We can only speculate at the impact their circumstances are having on the health, educational attainment and morale of these children.  

It is often said that a society should be judged on how it treats those most in need, most vulnerable and the weakest – there can be no doubt that this country must be judged wanting.

 

 

 

Why Abuse Of Women In Politics Hinders Democracy By Kelly Grehan

100 years on from some women gaining the vote in the UK and 99 years from the same action in the US you would think women’s participation in the political process would be accepted, if not completely ordinary and unworthy of comment.  However, far from being the case, women in politics remain viewed as interlopers and unwelcome by many.  

 

Let’s look at the evidence for why I say this: 

 

This week, 29 year old Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is described as a rising star in the American Democrat Party, faced the seemingly inevitable abuse that comes with being a woman in politics.

A right wing website published an image showing a woman’s bare feet in the bath, under the headline: “Here’s the photo some people described as a nude selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”  

The photo was, as it happens, not of the Congresswoman, but that’s not really the point.  

 As Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter the actions of the Daily Caller were “just a matter of time” as “women in leadership face more scrutiny [than men]. Period.” She went on to say :

 

Last week attempts to shame the same Congresswoman by releasing a video of her dancing from a few years before backfired when she responded with a new video of her dancing:

 https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1081234130841600000

Over 80% of women in politics, globally have experinced sexist or sexually humiliating remarks, gestures or threats and harassment which fell outside the normal political debate.  

Then there is the bizarre judgement of any women in fertility being, as former Australian Prime Minister said Even before becoming prime minister, I had observed that if you are a woman politician, it is impossible to win on the question of family.

If you do not have children then you are characterised as out of touch with ‘mainstream lives’. If you do have children then, heavens, who is looking after them?I had already been chided by a senior conservative Senator for being ‘deliberately barren.’

 

Men just do not face this kind of commentary of their circumstances.  

  

Seeking to humiliate women in politics is just the tip of the iceberg: last year a global survey of women in politics, found that 44% had faced serious abuse, including threats of murder, rape and assault.  As  SNP MP,  Mhairi Black said ‘”I’m bored of gender. I’m bored of being told I should be raped and bored of being told I’m too ugly to be raped.”

 

Jess Phillips, who, lest we forget, lost her friend, MP Jo Cox to murder by a member of the far right tweeted this week:

 

With about a 50% chance of threats of violence and sexual assault hanging over them, is it any wonder so few women want to get involved in politics?

 

Globally more than 10,500 women served as national parliamentarians in 2017, accounting for around 23 percent of total parliamentarians worldwide. In the UK, over the last century there have been just 491 female MPs and more than 4,000 male MPs.

 

A Report, Violence Against Women In Politics, published last year found that reports that ‘growing acts of violence serve as a strong barrier to women accessing their right to participate fully and equally in politics and public life.’

 

Normalising the abuse of public figures – and dismissing sexism and misogyny in the political world – as simply the ‘cost of doing politics’ has devastating consequences for the quality of democracy – Around one third of female politicians who have threatened with violence online stopped expressing their opinions there or withdrew from public conversations as a result. We cannot know the number of brilliant women who are deterred from entering politics because of fear of bringing violence upon themselves and their families, but there can be no doubt there are many.

Let us be in no doubt, the  abuse of women is pushed by those who believe women have no place in politics and so must be shamed, smeared and harassed until they give up.

 It is for all good people to stand up against those with this agenda.

Why Ousting This Conservative Government Is A Matter Of Life Or Death for Millions in The U.K. By Lisa Mulholland

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I edit and publish blogs for the Avenger but I lacked the headspace I needed to write. Editing is one thing but to actually formulate something and put it out into an article yourself takes a lot. And I just haven’t been able to sift through the overwhelming political material that has been hitting us left right and centre

Because anger without being mentally or physically able to take action for me is just wasted energy and it leads to frustration. I didn’t have the capacity for that.

However some things cannot be ignored.

Some things rip you out of your hiatus and put fire in your belly. And I can’t switch off any longer and really neither should any of us. That fire needs to go somewhere. For many in poverty this is now a matter of life or death.

So here I am. Writing. Putting my energy somewhere.

What pulled me out of it? Well that’s an interesting question because let’s face it we have a whole treasure chest of things to choose from: Brexit, The Government in contempt of Parliament, Brexit again, Theresa May facing a vote of no confidence, the absolute mess of negotiations and oh wait…

The. United Nations Report on Extreme Poverty. Here. In the UNITED KINGDOM!!!

Yes. The U.K. ‘Great’ Britain. Blighty.

Our wonderful little island… has been investigated for its ‘cruel’ austerity policies. The UN has gone so far as to call it “social engineering”.

Up until now, I knew we had a poverty problem caused by austerity. I’ve seen the statistics. I know that 1 in 4 children in the U.K. now live in poverty. I’ve seen the figures for foodbank usage. I also know that there are 130,000 homeless children in the U.K. and there are so many more depressing figures to report on. Each statistic is worthy of its own dedicated blog. The Trussell Trust and Shelter are awash with depressing facts and figures.

I’ve seen commons debates over the universal credit roll out. I’ve seen Corbyn trying desperately to halt that rollout. He’s managed to delay it quite a bit but the inevitable has happened and we are now almost peak rollout.

So with baited breath I forced myself to read the report. I delayed it slightly because I knew that once I read it there would be no going back for me and that I wouldn’t be able to shut off from it any longer. My ‘red pill/ blue pill Matrix’ moment has arrived.

The special rapporteur of extreme poverty and human rights Professor Philip Alston, conducted an investigation spanning a few months.

He traveled the length and breadth of the U.K. interviewing, those in poverty, from a wide range of backgrounds. He went on a fact finding mission, along with in depth analysis of our benefit system and austerity measures, interviews with ministers, local councils and charities to name but a few.

He did not hold back on what he had to say. The report was scathing and harshly worded and rightly so. I have summarised his report statement below:

• U.K. is the fifth largest economy with a system of government that is the envy of many countries.

• So it is therefore unjust and contrary to British values that so many are in poverty.

• He highlights the growth in homelessness, including rough sleepers and foodbank usage. It’s exponential rise has been since 2010, when austerity measures were introduced by the Conservative government.

• Local councils have been “gutted” with library closures in record numbers, which compounds the breakdown of community

• 14 million people in the U.K. are now in poverty.

• 4 million of those in poverty live 50% below the poverty line.

• 1.5 million of those are destitute. Meaning they can not afford basics such as food, or shelter.

• An estimated 40% of children live in poverty although the official amount is 1 in 4.

• He calls it “social calamity” and an “economic disaster”.

• He calls the government a “lone stubborn actor” in this mess. Councils, charities and other organisations have tried to step in.

• He says the government are in a “determinedly state of denial”.

• He uses words like “callous” and “social engineering” to describe our government.

The full statement and official summary of his report is here https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23881&LangID=E

These are strong words. This is a damning report. He makes no bones when he says that “austerity inflicted on people” is “unnecessary because it hasn’t saved any money but it has cost a significant amount to implement these policies”.

He admits that the government are overturning the Beveridge report, which is what preceded the implementation of the welfare state.

But he did commend the work of charities and local councils who try to do their best and be creative under terrible circumstances, as well as local communities.

Worryingly though, he said that, overall the British nature of being “compassionate towards those who are suffering is now being replaced with a mean spirited approach to those less fortunate than themselves.”

A sorry state of affairs.

Not only are people in this country being subjected to the cruelty of Universal Credit, which he states is the “ultimate embodiment of the promotion of austerity and the dismantling of the welfare state”. But the very nature of us as a nation, once known for our compassionate nature, is being worn down by a callous government.

So what is next for us a nation?

Well Professor Alston predicts that if things carry on the way they are that the economic uncertainty around Brexit and the continual fall of the pound, coupled with the continuation of the Universal Credit rollout will lead to a 7% increase in child poverty by 2022. That’s on top of the staggering figures we’ve seen in the present day.

He does say that as a nation these problems and the extreme poverty could “easily be reversed” if the government follows a set of recommendations that he makes. They are pretty clear and prescriptive.

Will this conservative government implement his changes?

Did the British media react with the outrage that this report deserves?

The simple answer is no.

While lots of media outlets touched on this report, many did not give it the attention it deserves.

Whether or not that is because they are preoccupied with Brexit and the Conservative party currently imploding, remains to be seen.

My personal view is a lot more cynical than that.

When this report was presented to Amber Rudd, the DWP Secretary she reacted with complete denial, and disgust.

Not towards the figures.

Not towards the plight of millions of people that she is supposed to represent.

Not towards the fact that money was available to the treasury to avoid and stop this problem.

No; she was disgusted that this report was even written!!!

So even with the vote of no confidence tonight… even with the government being held in contempt of parliament, and the complete pantomime that has occurred in this last week in the House Of Commons… all since this report was published, even with all that the conservatives still haven’t learned.

There is no ounce of shame. No ounce of humility. No sign of remorse .

Even if Theresa May loses this vote tonight; she will be replaced by someone in her party who will not give any regard to the abject poverty and suffering of so many people in this nation.

People have died, with no food in their stomachs. People would starve if it were not for British people donating food. Children are entering foodbanks and vomiting when they finally have the chance to eat.

So, for many, unless this conservative Government is ousted, it will be a matter of life or death.

We now have it in writing from a completely independent well respected source. One that is not politically motivated.

These words are not from the opposition. But from a well respected United Nations Professor, who is politically neutral. And Australian. He has no political points to score. He said “Austerity and the rise of poverty since 2010 is a political choice” made by the government. The Conservatives. Fact.

Owen Jones said “when the next Election comes it will be the fight of our lives” and he is absolutely right.

So when that time comes we absolutely have to do everything in our power to fight against this. Because it could be our friends, our family, our neighbour. And one day it could be you.

Sources

The Trussell Trust

Shelter

United Nations Special Report on Poverty in the U.K.