A New Way. Can You Help Some People Who Mean Alot To The World, and To Me?

Throughout our lives, we will come to find ourselves in a lot of different places.

A lot of different rooms.
A lot of different corners.
A lot of different wheres.

Those wheres will be unexpected. They will surprise us, scare us, change everything, change nothing, and break our hearts.

I’ve found myself in some pretty amazing wheres, and some pretty devastating places. But one of the constants was having the opportunity to be part of Postmasters Gallery, and to continue to feel like I am part of their huge art family.

And that’s why I am asking you to be a Patron and help support them to keep making the artworld more radical, more daring and the world a better place to be – for us all. 

Furthermore, outside of art, The Postmasters Family helped save my life… and helped me get back onto the path of trying to live my life.  See Postmasters aren’t just a normal gallery. They’re everything and more. They’re community, they’re bravery, they’re hope, they’re protest, they’re US.

Let me tell you how, and just how their Patron rewards will LITERALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE to YOU if you invest.

In 2008, I got to chance of a lifetime. I had decided the previous summer (2007), whilst working with steadfast ambitious & economically supported college-aged Americans, that I needed to catch up with my life and career ambitions. And my career ambitions was to be an artist and to live and work in NYC. Preferably in a gallery. This was no small-feat for an under confident, working class kid from Doncaster, UK (DONX!).

I worked at a bookies and at a toy-shop part-time during term-time,  whilst praying to the art gods that I’d get my artworld NYC summer. I did anything to make sure I could afford to go.

I remember exactly where I was when Magda of Postmasters Gallery said she’d meet me in person with the chance of getting to be Postmasters’ intern the summer of 2008. I was sat with my friend James Cotton in the Graphic Design-Apple suite at the old art campus. It was a super sunny day for the winter and the sun was blinding through the large windows. I just-re-read that same email, over & over again. I still have it archived even though I no longer have that email address (at hotmail.com?!).

I remember being incredibly nervous. I think I was practically mute for the first 2 weeks of being at Postmasters. But I learned so much.

I learnt around 26 years of Postmasters Show history, and art history in the making, as I was set to digitalizing their whole archive. Endless slides to be scanned, and amazing write-ups of artists in ArtForum, NYT, Art In America, et al – of still practicing, artists who have since disappeared, but a theme emerged.

These shows were often groundbreaking, urgent, courageous, some genuinely funny, ahead of the curves. New Media Art shows before new media art was accepted as it is today (though we still have ways to go with this medium). Women artists equally represented, and mostly – it still felt contemporary, and alive and represented the values that Magda and Tamas have sought to bring to the artworld their whole life.

I also learnt how to send invoices via fax (though still not into faxing), I met some of the coolest artists who continue to inspire my practice today, about art museums collections & how they buy art for them, at one point – I was left manning the whole establishment for a week?! and I learnt loads from Magda and Paulina’s experiences and ideas.

I was properly schooled that summer I was at Postmasters. I remember leaving after my last shift and I walked down to 9th Ave, and had to search for a working pay-phone to call my mom because I felt so sad I was leaving this amazing thing I had sort of been apart of for a short time.  I left that summer with my heart heavy but inspired.

I got back to the U.K. and art school felt kind of boring after that experience. I had to do something. Magda taught me that literally, anything is possible, even starting from scratch, along as you have perseverance, some people and community who can support you.

So my friends and I started our own lil’ artspace called CAKE (rebranded CAKE Everyone). We were a small space above a bar on West Street, Sheffield, UK. We lasted around 2 years and we learnt loads and had so much fun. But the thing is, I took everything I had learnt from Magda & Postmasters, and I put it into action in Sheffield – and invested it back into our local community.

I am still employing these lessons from this time into my life and practice.

Now, it would be easy to say – I became, like, an awesome artist, or got lots of gallery jobs… but because i’m not very smart or that talented, that didn’t really happen (and that’s ok!). But the year after I graduated was HARD. I nearly lost my own belief. But Magda offered hope and advise on the end of emails. That really helped me push through what I thought was a dark time…

Then things started to work out… I got a residency at SITE Gallery, I was working freelance as an illustrator, doing some university lecturing… I came over to work a summer in Boston/New Hampshire in the U.S.A.  but I had been feeling poorly for a good few months before I went… tired beyond belief, coughing up blood, endless nosebleeds, bone-pain, flu-like symptoms, drenching nightsweats.

And on the 21st August, everything changed. I found myself sitting in front an oncologist at General Mass Hospital. With my YMCA boss, 3,000 miles away from home. The doctor cleared his throat a few times and told me it looked like Lymphoma… Cancer. He told me, if it was time-sensitive and I didn’t get it sorted then I would die.

Well. As you can imagine, that wasn’t the news that I was expecting. I didn’t tell my mom for weeks (I was only 24). I felt ashamed, I don’t even know why. I thought it couldn’t be true. I googled the odds every-single-day. My boss kept telling me I needed to go home. The only person who I decided to tell who I didn’t work with — was Magda.

Because Magda was a person I knew I could trust, and always has a no bullshit take on everything but has an aabundance of empathy too.

After a crazy 32 U.S.A. state roadtrip (yolo!) Magda & Tamas put me up at their place, Magda cooked me an amazing breakfast before I left the USA for unknowns at home, not knowing whether I’d make it back again.

But the story is more complicated.

Magda nearly saw me go under. A few times.

I just had no energy. I laid in bed. Feeling sorry for myself. I was in pain. I was really sick. I couldn’t even watch Netflix. But Magda & Paulina would send reassuring tweets and emails and I slowly kept it together.

I worked harder at building my art-practice than on anything in my life, though it never felt like work. I devoted myself to it, though it never felt like sacrifice.  I am also endlessly grateful. Those years gifted me experiences, skills, lessons, and friendships. I would not be me without them.

Many forget that it’s a rare privilege to find something you care about so deeply and be able to make it your life.

I had struggled to get back, but my heart wasn’t in it in the same way.  I simply craved a new challenge. It didn’t matter why — I couldn’t lead  my life in the same way, and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t be caught without a plan if something happened to me again.

I realized I couldn’t have my old life back, but I also didn’t want it anymore.

So I decided to go into healthcare… radiotherapy & oncology! Of all things. But I’d kept all this secret from most people. It was furtive, shadowy work, and the secrets made my stomach ache.

 

But I reached out to M, and I hoped that she would still think I was an okay person.

The wild thing is, Magda still helped me through emails – giving me incredible advise and inspiration for my healthcare practice. To the point that I realized that I was still a fucking artist. I had got lost, but she never stopped helping me find the tracks back. I’m now doing my PhD combining all of my double agent status’ together. Just insane.

But here’s the thing about the Postmasters Fam., is that they don’t let you down.

Magda once said to me that we get dealt the cards that we get dealt, but we play them like they’re fucking Aces.  She has taught me that experience is subjective. We get to decide what’s devastating, what’s beautiful, and what we do next. In the books of our lives, we are both protagonist and narrator. And narrators have incredible power.

In writing this, I thought a lot about the places that shape us, and how, in turn, we shape those places in our minds. Postmasters have really shaped my life, in so many ways.

As human beings living on earth right now, we find ourselves in a very particular where.  The art-world mostly sucks, because it works for the 1%, lets not even talk about politics.

But this is something we can all help, maintain, and be a part of. Help sustain the legacy, help to make the future, help to secure a better history. Look down at your feet and decide what that means.

Instead of being afraid, I’m going to try to be brave. Instead of feeling regret, I’m going to focus on getting better tomorrow, and instead of hoping that someone else will say it or move it or mean it, I’m going to do it myself.

Postmasters has been there for us (in ways you might not even know yet!) so lets me THERE FOR THEM!

And as I’ve just shown you, the $100 or $500 a month reward will LITERALLY CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I can’t stress enough how much its worth it.

Let’s make art, and friends, and purpose, and be good to each other. And please spread the word!

If you got this far – Thanks!

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Why the student NHS Bursary is important #BursaryOrBust

The Tory government believe that Nursing students (And I’m sure it will then lead onto other allied health care professional courses such as Radiotherapy, radiography, physiotherapy, ect) don’t need a NHS Bursary to help them fund their course and cost of living.

And  they’re so wrong believing this. It’s just another way to repress the NHS as we know it. And it’s bad for these reasons.

Firstly, I would never – EVER – have had the opportunity to go to university if I got no maintenance grant (for a normal – fine art course). I entered university in the first year  that tuition “top-up” fees came into play. Now, I had no sense of money so the debt didn’t really worry me too much.  And I still don’t have any money.  But I came from a family that had NO money too. I was brought up below the poverty line. No one in my family has any qualifications. There were about 12 out of my 6th form (of 250+ students) who went onto university in the area i’m from. Are you sensing all this lower-social-economic working class, less privileged stuff here?

My mom jumps from minimum wage temp job to temp job. Ruining credit scores after credit scores – but we get by. Thanks to door-step loans and borrowing from my nan  – back and forth.

When I went to university the first time – I kept a bunch of part time jobs, I had the summer to earn more money. I would wire my mom extra money to help her out too. I didn’t get ANY help. I worked in the USA on unpaid internships because I worked in the bookies in my spare time. I left university 4 years later with a debt of around £23,000. That was my tuition fees & living loan. I had also got a maintenance grant and a university bursary. And I can’t believe ‘normal degree students’ won’t get that in the future now either. I didn’t party too much, but I had to go to London a lot as part of my course and art materials and an art degree show is expensive to put on. But I made ends meet and I don’t ever remembering feeling like I was truely money screwed. But I lived in my overdraft. I didn’t care. It was free.

Fast forward to right now.

I’m in my last year of my 3 year Radiotherapy & Oncology degree. And I CONSTANTLY feel like I don’t have enough money to survive.

I’m doing this degree because after a horrific health experience I wanted to both give back to the NHS that has saved my life, and given me so much in compassion and help. It rocked my world-view. Falling sick changed who I was as a person and my old life just didn’t fit in the way it did before. But it was also really important to me to enhance patient care further,  to get rid of those moments of care where I felt misunderstood as a patient and not really listened to. Sometimes we all just need to be listened to, even if there’s nothing you can do about the issue at hand. And there’s so many systems and pathways that can be made so much better.

And so, I thought that the NHS could do with someone like me, someone who had already done work with patient experience, who can empathize what my patients are experiencing, who thrives on doing a great job and helping people, making things, and whose passion for social justice and a better society motivates everything I do.

But falling ill had made me even more strapped for cash. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do my freelance job. I lost work, I lost hope. For a whole year. When I decided that studying radiotherapy would also be good for me as a coping mechanism and as a routine to get me back to functioning in the real world – to make me feel a bit human again and to understand the system that I loved and hated – i knew because my course was funded by the NHS I could ‘afford’ to do it. This was a hoop that wasn’t going to hinder me. I wasn’t discriminated against because I didn’t come from money.  If that bursary wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it.

But here’s the thing. The NHS Bursary barely covers living costs anyways. And they want to chop it?

Being a healthcare student isn’t like being a ‘normal course’ student. On my art course, we started late September, had a few essays, researched a lot, constantly worked (though this wasn’t logged) in the studio (realtively stress free) and you’d have a few assessments and shows along the way. You made it what it needed to be. As time consuming or dedicated as you wanted. We’d have a nice christmas break, and a nice Easter break. No exams. We’d break up for the whole summer around May time. And the cycle would happen again. I could work weekends if i wanted to because i did all my work during the week. I could work evenings because – well – i could go and work in the studio whenever it suited me. I had 4 months of potential time to save up from a part-time job and/or get extra experience in my area.

A healthcare course is much, much, much more and very different. We work 35+ hours a week on clinical practice. Helping patients, cleaning and setting up equipment, cleaning up patients,  letting them cry on you. You, as students, do carry quite a bit of the work – that keeps the NHS moving. But you’re being watched, constantly. You have this constant feeling of stress because you know you need something clinical ticked off, or you need to do more case reports, or case discussions/clinical examinations, you’re constantly being stretched and observed and building your professional knowledge, confidence and persona. And it’s not like the art studio, if I mess up – i can’t just come back to it, it’s someone’s life it’s affecting. Add 1-2 hours of commuting to work each way. And then time for cooking tea and tomorrows lunch. Then add on ALL of the academic work that you need to do that night and get up and go to work the next day again.

You have ePortfolio, exams, assignments after assignments, clinical competencies, IPE, dissertation, more exams. And you work ALL summer too. No Camp America for you. This is all on top of 35+ hours. But guess what, if you was doing a business degree, or a marketing or computer science degree with a work placement – You’d be paid for your work placement. What about us?

What about this Bursary?

Unlike normal degree students – healthcare students get sent across the region and the country for their clinical practice. They can be in Doncaster one placement and then in Sheffield the other. On my course people can be placed as far as Newcastle and Leister. Commuting from your house in Sheffield to Newcastle is probably going to be a no go. So guess what, you have to pay for 2 rents – often UP FRONT – out of your own money. But get this. That NHS Bursary barely covers your Sheffield rent anyways. Where are you going to get this extra cash from? How are you going to eat? How can you afford the bus to work? Sometimes it’s just cheaper to rent a place then it is to actually take public transport (which is pretty horrific) If like me, you’re just a poor kid from the Donx, whose mom can barely pay her own rent anyways, where do you get this extra money from? What happens if you’re a parent? What do you do then?

Then lets consider all this academic work on top of your clinical placement rota. Each 20 credit module equals 200 hours of study or teaching. Since you’re on clinical practice, that 200 hours is your own study time. But you’ve already worked 8 hours that day, you get home around 6-ish if you’re lucky. You need to do that work. What employer is going to be that understanding of your dodgy work pattern? And you’re probably going to be REALLY tired after finishing a whole day of clinical placement ontop a whole shift at Boots,  then go home and try to do some ePortfolio and do this ALL again. And people DO IT. That’s not the debate. But could you do it if that bursary wasn’t there at all? i don’t think so.

When you get a NHS bursary (which FYI is at the most around £380 a month) you don’t get any extra help from the university like you do on a ‘normal course’. You’re exempt from quite a few hardship funds in place within the university. And student loans will only lend you up to £2,200 a year – max. You have to work clinical placement all summer remember too.

Then lets consider all these extra costs which you won’t think about.

Your uniform has to be clean on each day. That’s 5 days of washing straight up. It’s white – that’s an extra load of washing. If you’re living in student accommodation – your washing is going to run you around 5-10 extra pound a week. You’re working all week,  and there’s something about clinical placement which makes you WAY more hungrier than in real life. And hospital canteen food is ridiculously expensive – so you have to plan ahead and pay extra in your food shopping to run the costs of a decent packed lunch to get you through the working day. There’s all the extra things too. You want to be ahead of the game for ePortfolio and job hunting – you need to go to conferences – often way expensive – even for students. But that’s part of your professional conduct and identity. Then you have your normal course costs. Really expensive course text books.

Then if you’ve survived all of this, and get to the end of the course and want to get a job. You have to pay for a licence to practice and a membership to your college of your profession to ensure you have insurance – before you’ve even got a job, a pay-check. This is around £380 before you’ve even started. I have no idea at this point where my money will come from to pay for that. We’ll see.

I’m lucky because I’m poor I get the full bursary. Others aren’t but their parents don’t help them out because they can’t afford to either. Many student accommodations are over £4000 a year rent now, which is more than your years bursary.

I work as a freelance artist so most of the time i can work within my own time-frames. However my health still sucks balls. I struggle with fatigue like you wouldn’t believe. So often I get home, and all I do is sleep. It makes doing my school work even harder on top of trying to do freelance work too. But I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

Others aren’t that lucky. Despite having my bursary and working my freelance jobs – i’m talking many jobs too – I barely make ends meet. I’ve ruined my credit score on this degree even further than before. I’ve got to the end of my over-draft and even had my card declined. That never happened to me before. But it’s because I’m paying up front for rents, for train tickets for clinical placement. For food that’s not covered by my loans.

Healthcare students don’t fit your normal format. Most enter the degree much older than your average student population. Many have children and family. They need this bursary. They too probably already have a degree like me. Their story is probably similar. They saw a loved one close suffer dilibertating illness that inspired their calling into healthcare; after having children they wanted to become a midwife; or sometimes they just needed time to mature to discover their true calling.

The NHS treats a population as diverse as you can imagine, and it needs staff that represents the population it is treating. We don’t want a select few who can afford to take on the debt or that their parents will pay everything for them. We want them as well as the people who know what it’s like to be down and out on your luck, who know what it feels like to suffer in constant pain, who have children and know what a parent may be thinking, who know how tough times are. We need people who are compassionate, and creative and passionate and brave. And I don’t want them to be priced out.

My mom has always brought me up with the belief that I shouldn’t make money a barrier. This has hindered me in different ways  – like buying things I shouldn’t have because I can’t really afford them – but not everyone is brought up with that belief and some people don’t have the emotional or financial support to be able to take a leap and do a course without any Bursary help.

You wouldn’t expect a kid to pay for their apprenticeship- you give them a terrible wage (which FYI- apprentices need to be paid more too). Nursing students, like all healthcare professionals DESERVE a LIVING WAGE. The bursary isn’t a living wage. But it’s something. Taking that away is disrespectful, it doesn’t acknowledge the hardwork and the goodwill that comes with the healthcare courses. The NHS does benefit from students. We don’t ask for much because we’re passionate about making the system better, about caring for society. It’s NOT about money. EVER. But this is forcing people not to have an opportunity, and potentially change the face of the NHS.

The consequences of not  having a NHS bursary in nursing are SO much bigger than you’d ever think on first inspection. We’ll loose our social mobility of the profession, the career progression, the mentorship, we’ll loose people applying for the course, and have a shortage ina  time that’s already suffering a shortage.

It’s bad news. And it’s not what the NHS stands for. That’s why I am standing with Nurses and all healthcare workers – for both the junior contract and the student nurses bursaries. We’re all one in the NHS. We work across professions and care for our patients and their carers and we need to look out for one another too. To the future of nursing, and all healthcare professions, and our care and the NHS.

 

 

Hoping for 2015 to be a year where we open the doors wider & take care of one another

Whoa, 2014. You were such a supremely bittersweet year. Full of opportunities that I am endlessly thankful for and hardships that are unspeakable. You’ve made me even more grateful for every moment of grace and love that we get.

I saw my mom get married, my bro move out for the first time & find love. I lost 2 amazing friends to disease & suicide. I’m part-time raising two young cute dogs.

I’ve had Shingles like 2/3 times, 1 constant long 9 month headache & half a numb face, got run over on my bike & damaged my ribs, broke a bone in my hand skateboarding & was in my first ever massive house fire – where my friends and I helped to save a woman (who was a doctor) trapped in the kitchen (she started the fire, whoopz). I got so many emails from strangers around the world offering support and advise and tips on health-stuff.

I raised about £700 in total this year for various charities & donated over £200 to support others. I worked out earlier this week that I’ve written way over 80,000 words on cancer stuff this year including my ePortfolio. Which is kind of a lot. Endless assessments and 20 weeks of clinical placement (feels like so much more though) & maintained my freelance work of live drawing countless of amazing  & awesome talks & events, website design and teaching.

I moved house twice. Slept literally for some weeks, and weekends at a time. I tried rowing, running more, hiking and learning italian this year. All of which failed miserably. Or, every time i got somewhere, an injury or illness would happen. I’ve had 5 christmas parties, 2 Thanksgivings, 4 massive house-parties, 2 international flights, and visited 1 new country this year. I helped to organize the first student led- conference on Radiotherapy & Oncology in the UK & I got to do my own  Pecha Kutcha Talk instead of just drawing someone elses talk, Yay!

I did all of this (and some more) all whilst feeling really, really run-down, extremely fatigued & in pain.  I often find it hard to keep up with myself.  I look at the above sentences and just sit back and say “Wooooweeeeee!”

After all that, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learnt from this year:

I learned that a good way to force yourself to make more personal work is to travel. So I did.

I road tripped around Nevada with friends in a convertible like we were start-up founders. I explored the peaks of the peak district. I rode bikes through Brooklyn streets, and cruised the lakes of New Hampshire. I’ve taken countless bus trips across asphalted highways in many countries. I lived for half the year in a new city Leeds, traveled miles of sidewalks through Paris, Copenhagen and London, and danced in NY ’til sunrise.

I learned that focusing on things other than work, such as health and relationships, actually makes your work and life 500 times better. I learned to appreciate my good friends, and have learned to cherish good friend time over acquaintance time.

We talk a lot about what it means to be busy — both with work and life. But how much do we know about what it means to just be? To what end must we drudge on about our lives in hopes of becoming happy and healthy if only we just work hard enough to earn it? And not just in monetary currency do I mean that we work hard, but in social currency as well.  I’m slowly learning that a relationship is the most valuable gift we can ever expect to have in this life, and all kinds of relationships. From friendship, to relative, to love to relationships with strangers. How we can help one another?

Being sick has taught me that great relationships are about what you give to it that matters more than what you take. Because my friends and family have given more support to me in ways they probably don’t know how much it means to me.

We can overwork ourselves to the point of being absent from relationships – of all kinds, love, friendship – work. Thereby weakening it, or we can become lazy and miss the blessing that comes from tending to its daily needs. There is a great balance that hangs in the air between one person and another and it’s often a fight to find time just to just to stand still. The challenge here-to lies in making time for quality time. In true form – money is circulated – time is spent. You can never get your time back.  2014 reminds me that I need this to be a constant lesson to be learnt – in 2015 I hope to be able to manage my time better so that it’s spent and invested in wisely.

Additionally I’ve also learnt that time is already a tough customer, but it becomes torturous when you start measuring how much of it maybe left;  and  when you start measuring yourself to others by it. DON’T – DO – THIS.

I’ve learnt that words are often the most explicit example of clear thinking. (Alongside some drawings 😉 )

As someone who is obsessed with type – it’s hard to get away from being beaten over the head with typefaces, grids, and rules in the beginning – trying to learn it all —and rightfully so—but typography can act as a smoke screen. There is so much to learn about the letters that it’s easy to forget about the words.  Ugly words in beautiful typefaces are still pretty dumb.  I then fell into something I’m still attempting to understand: words are the most explicit example of clear thinking. We should tell people how thankful we are for them and the things they do, not only through gestures, but also words.

Life is a set of nested envelopes—the seed of you is held in the mind, which is in your body, which is encased in your family, your relations, workplace, society, ect.

But ultimately, if there’s anything I’ve learnt – is that 1. I love a cliche and 2) it’s this cliche lesson; The greatest part of life is found along the journey. The sweat, the blood and the tears are where we find our truest strength, our truest friends, our unknowing trust for kind strangers. The mountain top experiences are short lived. Yes, reaching the top of the summit is truly rewarding (as it should be) but you can’t expect to stay there for long. There’s new things to see, and do. But you do need to pack up your experiences, successes and failures, and head out on the next adventure. You grow. You get stronger. You learn to pace yourself.

But becareful to think you must journey alone. I’ve learnt that nothing great is ever achieved alone.

Thank you x 10000000 to all of my clients, collaborators and wonderful friends. You’ve been there for me in ways I can never repay. I’ve been shown kindness by strangers and love by friends and family that fills my heart. I now hope to take everything I’ve learnt from 2014 and the people in it – to open doors wider and hope we can continue to take care of one another.  I hope I can continue to have amazing opportunities to draw awesome events and stories, and design really cool things whilst being a really empathetic, compassionate and caring healthcare professional.  I want to be a better friend, a better student, a better time-user. I want 2015 to be amazing for you all.

As the proverb says, if you want to get there fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go together.

HAPPY 2015 Y’ALL!

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I dedicate this post to the best human I know.

Here’s a fact about my life that I’ve alluded to before, but never really written about.

My mom never married my father. He was a drunk. A coward. Who was [is?] racist and just generally ignorant all around. This was way, way back. His reputation for aggressiveness was written way before I was born. My mom has really, really bad taste in men. Always. If there’s a bad guy – she wants him. My father, even before I was born was put into jail for a short-time for attacking someone. But my mom had me when she was pretty young, 17. She had just lost her father. He had died in front of her, in a field, from a heart attack. I can’t even imagine this trauma. Next thing, she’s like “Oh shit! I’m pregnant.” Not wanting to handle more loss, she decides to keep me (imagine the world with no Smizz hahaha) – knowing it was going to be extremely hard. So she didn’t want to raise her child alone, as she never felt so alone as she was right then. So naturally she invited my father into our lives.

Apparently, I am told, my father and I spent a lot of time together before I was 3 (as he was often unemployed). I can’t remember this really. I do remember him taking me to the working mans club. I’d have a coke & a packet of crisps. He would drink beer, of course. I’d play the bandit machine and wonder what the game bowls was. Occasionally he’d take me to the bookies and I remember liking this because of the betting papers having a carbon copy back to them. I could use it to make super basic animations! And I remember making a super awesome landscape out of papermashe for my train set. I found out when I enrolled onto my healthcare course last year that I hadn’t been vaccinated for the MMR. He had 1 job! Aside from this, I don’t remember anything else. And somehow – we had a natural separation. I believe this is because as the older I got I do remember his short temper. His aggressiveness. I remember him throwing my brother, who was like 3 months old (i was about 5/6) onto the sofa & storm out to go to the pub because the baby bro wouldn’t shut up crying.

One day, when I was around 8 – after me, my nan, bro & mom had come back from a nice day at Whitby – he started yet another pointless argument. It got more and more heated. My bro and I were in the bathroom. And then I heard my mom scream for help. I filled this massive bowl we’d been using for a jug with cold water and instinctively ran out to the landing to throw it on my father. What I saw was him, onto of my mom, holding her down with his hand across her neck and his body weight on her whole body. He reached out and ripped a swindle off the staircase banister. It snapped in half and one end had a HUGE nail hanging out. He raised it above his head to hit my mom with it. So I ran and chucked the water over him and scratched  and tried to bite his back, anything to try and get him off my mom. He let go, eventually, my mom grabbed some clothes and dragged my bro & I into the car and drove up the road. She stopped and we just sat at the top of the road, half wet, half dressed, listening to trax FM & her sobbing. I told her not to go back. She said she didn’t have a choice. We had no where else to go. So we waited for a bit, maybe 40 minutes, and she turned the engine on and drove back. And he acted like nothing had happened.

This wasn’t like a once off. And it certainly wasn’t the most horrific. My mom eventually got enough strength to split up from him when I was about 13. (thank god). But that was 13 years of domestic abuse – physical and psychological. Twice I called the cops, twice they said they couldn’t do anything about it because it was in the home – and not outside in public. It took me years & years to speak to him once he eventually left. I’ve said it before, but any one can be a father biologically – it takes more to be dad. He seems like he’s mellowed out a bit with old age – even more stranger – my mom is kind of totally cool with him now.

Which confuses me no end. I can’t forgive him so easily though.  Back when, he would often call me a f***** b****/ c*** more times than I can count. In front of my friends. He would scream in their faces too. He poured milk over my head, push me, hit me with his belt. He got rid of my kitten which I called bitsy – because I loved him to bits.   He’d rain those words on me and my mom whilst we were at our weakest. He’d rain them on me when I was at my worst. He’d rain them on my mom when she fought back and when she didn’t. And he’d hate me either way.

At the time, I was completely ashamed and felt like this was completely normal for every kid growing up in the Donx. My friends never really questioned it either. My mom would make up excuses,  she’d say that people fight, and when they fight they say things they don’t mean. She said this because, for reasons I still don’t understand, but I can only guess – money, security,  housing, the idea of what people would think, believing that it WILL be better next time and it won’t ever happen again. I don’t know.

All I know is that we were all scarred, deeply, over and over and over again. Scars upon scars upon scars. And those scars were self-loathing; those scars were self-doubt; those scars were real. I tell the world-wide-web about this because I don’t really believe in many absolutes, but I do believe (now) that if someone’s cruel to you, you shouldn’t hold them close, no matter how deserving you feel of those lashings. And if someone tells you otherwise, you probably shouldn’t hold them close either. And so many people live in this fear, in these scars, because they feel ashamed. That some how they’re weak, that maybe they deserve this. And they (you) / we don’t deserve this. No one does.

All these celebrities attacking their wifes, girlfriends and so forth, and nothing really happening to them. This isn’t acceptable. What message are we sending out? The thing is, it’s hard to ask for help – when you feel like you don’t deserve it.  No one should ever do it alone and there is support out there.

Now my mom and I’s relationship is bound by these horrific & often traumatic events, and as a result we’re closer than close. We’re like sisters, best friends and mother & daughter all in one. We’ve been and seen the struggle. And it’s made me a better person, and the person I am today. But that doesn’t discount it as right. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is mis-treating you – get out now. We all have your back.

When we stop making excuses for this sort of behaviour, we free up space and energy for the good stuff. The reeeeeeal good stuff.  And that’s all I wish for any and every one of you. Ever.

I dedicate this post to the best people I know. Especially to my friend C & my mom.

http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/