Tag Archive | postaday2011

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2011

We are fast approaching International Day of Persons with Disabilities recognised each year on December 3rd. The 2011 theme?

“Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development”

A great committment for sure but I prefer something a bit more simple and closer to home so for 3rd December 2011 I am going to pull together some inspiring stories and artwork (photos, paintings, crafts, musings) from some very talented people who suffer with mental illness and collate them in a celebration of our combined and extensive ABILITY.

This is assuming of course that we think that depression and other forms of mental illness are disabilities and we consider ourselves disabled.  It would seem that the majority of people surveyed in research carried out by the Depression Alliance and RADAR during 2009/10 thought that depression is a disability and are prepared to badge themselves as disabled in order to tap into a number of resources only available to the disabled community.

And what do I hope to achieve by showcasing this talent produced by the “mentally disabled?”

  • Mental illness should not be a barrier to achievement and success.
  • With encouragement and support we can live normal lives and recover to hold down jobs, look after our families and enjoy ourselves.
  • We are resilient and loyal
  • We are exceptionally talented and we should exhibit this talent freely.

I know lots and lots of very talented people across all spheres who have mental illness of one type or another so I may have to dedicate all my posts during December to this cause. I will enjoy doing that and I will be in touch with you soon…….

Big Ben on a winter evening - Drawings - Gallery

Big Ben on a winter’s evening-by Stephen Wiltshire


Contrasting fortunes-the cycle of depression

Yesterday I spent time with two of my colleagues and the difference in their moods could not have been more marked. I had lunch with the lovely “K” who was bubbly, brimming over with newly found confidence and self-approval, smiley, chatty, shoulders back and eyes glinting full of mischief. A woman on a mission to make the most of the moment. Only “K” could come to the table with a glorious salad piled high only then to reach into her bag to find the cheese, salad dressing and croutons/sprinkles/crispy bits (whatever they’re called) to complete the spread! She kept me entertained for a good hour and it was great to see her so full of life and energy after so many tearful and difficult times.

This is the wonderful side of the human mind. With the right encouragement, treatments, inspiration and motivation, the support of friends, family and colleagues it has an amazing ability to recuperate and regenerate positivity from the pit of despair and despondency.

 Simply amazing and long may it last!

Unfortunately, “A” isn’t in such a good place right now. Overwhelmed and under pressure, tears welled as she spoke of her current low mood. Each problem individually manageable but collectively insurmountable and with little energy left over from fighting the depression she faces a constant stream of routine daily battles just to get through the day. All those things that people take for granted; having a shower, cleaning your teeth, eating breakfast, driving to work, facing the crowds on the train. Struggling in vain to concentrate with a mind that wanders and flits unproductively from task to task. Tired and worried. A vicious circle and a negative downward spiral awaits unless the self-critical behaviour is arrested.

Hopefully, “A” will find the strength and courage to face the battles with hope and belief that all will be well in the end given time and gets the support she deserves from her friends, family and colleagues. “A” is usually the strong one. The carer and nurturer. I just hope that she takes some time out for herself and gives herself a chance to regain her positive and capable self soon.

She’s taken the first, and often most difficult step in talking about it. It’s onwards and upwards from here “A”.

You go girl. We’re with you all the way. 🙂

November in the garden

There’s nothing like some fresh air and gentle exercise to lift your mood and boost the Vitamin D levels which tend to lapse a bit through the winter months so, although early morning was a little grey, misty and uninviting I set out into the garden to do some tidying up. It’s very long time indeed since I’ve been outside in mid-November in a t-shirt and I can’t remember ever seeing cowslips and fuchsias in full flower as well as self-seeded foxgloves, aquilegia and hollyhocks already well established for next year.

The grape-vine which trailed across the garage and into next-door’s garden (clearly aiming for the pergola to cling to) is now trimmed ready for winter and a barrow-load of grapes which shamefully went to waste this year is now in the compost heap. I hope the scavengers enjoy the intoxicating effects of fermentation as much as these elephants clearly relished the ripe marula fruit!

Edgar Harlow remembered

Today, Remembrance Day, I will be adding my great-uncle Edgar to the list of those I know of personally who have made and still make great sacrifices defending our freedom from aggressors. 

I only found out about Edgar Harlow this summer thanks to my cousin and my aunt who have very kindly been helping me put together some family history for my son Will’s scrapbook. What a tragic but amazing story this is and although Edgar lost his life in 1942 during WWII, I’m so glad that I have this story to pass on to future generations in the hope that it makes the act of Remembrance all the more real and closer to home. 

We should not forget.

 In October 1942, Edgar Harlow set out on his way home for Christmas, travelling from Africa, where we believe he was serving in the Royal Corps of Signals (Gambia Area). 

At approximately 9.30pm on 30 October 1942, the troop ship “President Doumer”  with Edgar onboard was torpedoed 150 miles north of Madeira. Chaos ensued but a Norwegian Steam Merchant ship SS Alaska managed to rescue many survivors from the Doumer. The rescued survivors included Edgar Harlow. 

Sadly however, SS Alaska was itself torpedoed just after midnight, and it was in this second attack that Edgar died. SS Alaska limped into Gibraltar before returning to the UK.  

Such was the chaos and confusion around who perished in the first attack, who was rescued and subsequently killed that Edgar’s family did not receive the telegram informing them of his death until 11.00am on Christmas morning 1942.  

Such a sad story, but one which needs to be remembered. 

Lest we forget.

The President Doumer

SS Alaska

Can a leopard change it’s spots?

After some deliberation I have come to the conclusion that metaphorically speaking, although it would be amazing to think that leopards could change their spots, tigers their stripes, and Ethiopians the colour of their skin, fundamental change will only happen if the  leopard/tiger/Ethiopian really wants to change their ways. There has to be huge effort on their part to achieve change and no amount of persuasion, comfort or reassurance by others can overcome a lack of desire to change permanently if comfort can still be found in the normality of sadness, frustration, anxiety or depression.

Do some people “chose” to be sad, depressed, or anxious? Consciously I think not. Who would go through  the misery and upset that negative and low mood brings to a person, their friends and family? Subconsciously however, it may be a little more tricky to be so sure. There is often some comfort to be found in retreating into familiar negative territory of low mood, anxiety, depression and general malaise. It feels normal. It’s a good excuse to “duck out” of certain situations and there is always the back-up of “some people just don’t get IT” when you need to justify anti-social behaviour.

Can people change? Really change?

Depression, anxiety and fluctuating moods can be overcome and yes, I believe that once you come to terms with this and believe that you can change, it can happen. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes courage and it takes humility and trust in others.

You may need to change your lifestyle choices, your attitude and your routine.

You will certainly need the help of your family, friends and colleagues so don’t be afraid to ask.

Be yourself. Even if at heart you are a leopard with no spots to change.

A lion.

Elephant rescue


There’s nothing quite like a heart-warming true story to chase those blues away and the one I received today from a friend is one of the best. It really cheered me up (not that I was feeling miserable) and in sharing it, I hope that it brings you as many smiles as it did me earlier.

Elephant rescue



Day by day

Showing people that having bouts of depression is nothing to be ashamed of, alarmed at or permanently debilitating gives me great satisfaction and, although I could do better myself by following my advice, I’m still here and living life as best I can.

Depression is something that many of us have to live with and coping on a day by day basis is the only way forward. It is difficult to plan when you see no future or have no energy to spend beyond getting past the next milestone. But we must all remember that depression is only one part of our make-up and does not need to define who we are on a daily basis.

 I have been very lucky to have received psychological support and guidance from a highly qualified and experienced practitioner and I have benefited enormously from his expertise. However, despite all the clinical diagnoses and treatment, the medication and science, his mantra for depression is and always has been; ” The best cure for depression is how you live your life”.

If any one of us can inspire and encourage those suffering with depression to start living their life again, do things they enjoy and engage with family and friends so that the “cure” can begin, then we should do so and take great pride in that. I am  thrilled therefore to introduce a new Blog to the world of WordPress which was born this week! Day by Day is a very personal account of one person’s struggle with depression and her attempts to overcome its influence on her life. I have known Sue for only a short time but already she is showing the positive signs of someone determined to beat depression once and for all. Good for her and may her Blog inspire many others to do the same.

Happy Scrapping!

Well, such a lot can happen in a short time and it only takes a few nudges from the right people at the right time to kick ass into gear.

I’m talking about my new-found passion for scrapbooking which started last year when I decided to make a keepsake for my teenage son making sure that his family history and childhood memories are there at his fingertips should he ever be interested enough to enquire. I just wish I had been more inquisitive about my family whilst my parents and grandparents were still alive as lots of interesting stories are now lost. As a result of outside interest in my passion, I have set up a website The Scrapbook Fairy where you can view my gallery of pages I’ve created, register for scrapbook workshops or, if you have a special family event approaching, think about ordering a personal, bespoke scrapbook as a wonderful gift. Or, even better, treat yourself!

Scrapbooking family photos, history, and memories is a creative and interesting way to display keepsakes and whilst looking through endless pages of photos  in a boring album and which all look the same can be rather tedious, the same cannot be said of looking through pages of photos and journalling which have had the scrapbook treatment.

You may be sitting there thinking “I can’t do this”, “I’m not at all creative” and “Where do I start?” but there is plenty of guidance available on the internet as well as scrapbooking workshops and friendly craft shop owners who will give you a friendly welcome and help you on your way. In the meantime, here are a few basics to allay common fears!

  •  Don’t be scared! Enjoy experimenting with colours and paper and ideas. There is not a right way or wrong way to scrapbook. Everyone has their personal style and what suits some, doesn’t suit others but that’s ok.
  • Keep it simple. Sometimes less is more and although some scrapbook pages you may see done by others are beautiful, they can also be expensive and time-consuming to produce. Practice on simple designs first.
  • “If you never make mistakes, you’ve never made anything”………is the sign posted in my local craft shop and how right Sandra is! Since making my scrapbooks I have made many many mistakes and as a result I have found more amazing ways to use the stuff I have. 
  • Never throw anything away! Football programmes, tickets, newspaper cuttings, even old lace, buttons and ribbon can be used to embellish your pages.
  • Don’t stick to the same colours and themes. This is hard to fight against if you have a natural preferenece towards vintage colours, modern patterns or shabby-chic designs but make yourself think outside your comfort zone and make your scrapbook more varied and appealing to everyone. Try using a colour wheel and you may be surprised at the combinations of colours you never considered.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help. The crafting community is a very friendly and helpful one and you will be made to feel very welcome. You learn a lot by talking to other scrapbookers and you will have a constant flow of ideas once you develop even the smallest network of like-minded crafters.

So, what are you waiting for? If you need an outlet for your creative tendencies try scrapbooking. But beware, it may take over your life!


Timeless Zephaniah

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah is a very modern poet. Like me he was born in Birmingham and like me he is an Aston Villa Fan. However, that’s where the similarities end. This guy is extraordinarily talented and contemporary and I love his take on Kipling’s “If” which is so relevant today and, from the looks of it, will be for some time to come yet.

What if

If you can keep your money when governments about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust your neighbour when they trust not you
And they be very nosy too;
If you can await the warm delights of summer
Then summer comes and goes with sun not seen,
And pay so much for drinking water
Knowing that the water is unclean.

If you seek peace in times of war creation,
And you can see that oil merchants are to blame,
If you can meet a pimp or politician,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you cannot bear dis-united nations
And you think this new world order is a trick,
If you’ve ever tried to build good race relations,
And watch bad policing mess your work up quick.

If you can make one heap of all your savings
And risk buying a small house and plot,
Then sit back and watch the economy inflating
Then have to deal with the negative equity you’ve got;
If you can force your mind and body to continue
When all the social services have gone,
If you struggle on when there is nothing in you,
Except the knowledge that justice can be wrong.

If you can speak the truth to common people
Or walk with Kings and Queens and live no lie,
If you can see how power can be evil
And know that every censor is a spy;
If you can fill an unforgiving lifetime
With years of working hard to make ends meet,
You may not be wealthy but I am sure you will find
That you can hold your head high as you walk the streets.