Writing event – 9 Oct Littlemoor Library, Weymouth

event poster image

Writing event

Why not come along to Littlemoor Library, near Weymouth, a week today (9th October) where Kathy, Judi and I will be taking part in this event next week. Come and join us for some insights into the factual, fanciful and fictional world of writing.

An opportunity to see, and buy, from a cross-cutting range of books highlighting the range of output from our local authors. A cornucopia with something for everyone as we span the range from Tudor to modern, from mystical islands to the heart of academia and from coast and country to the heart of industry. Come and discover the world of writing, editing self-publishing and output via traditional outlets.

If you haven’t been to the venue before the Library is adjacent to the local shopping centre with free parking available; alternatively use the local No.2 bus service which stops close by.

writing event poster image
Poster for the 9th October event

Stoptober

Only a brief update in today’s post but if anyone has a bit of cash to spare then Stella and I are taking part again this year in stoptober/Go Sober to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.  Any sponsorship welcome towards this extremely worthwhile cause.

 

Gales, garage and gunge

Cropped Screen Shot showing the, to me at least, pointless changes to Google.

Gales, garage and gunge

Garage

As part of the ongoing tidying and fixing of the garage it became apparent that the roof was leaking. Closer inspection indicated that almost the whole of the edge strip where the roofing felt bends over the edge had split. On getting onto the roof I also discovered that the original installation in several places had left voids and the local gulls had pecked holes through. All these edges now patch fixed but I think we may need a replacement garage roof next year, part of the problem is some  sagging between the joists so that on a flat roof, the water simply puddles rather than running off. I have never liked felted, flat-roofs, this one is now 44 years old and showing its age.

Gales

The forecast threats of gales sharpened the mind to the need to get the garage roof fixed, or at least bodge-patched, rapidly. Stella and I got much of it done on Sunday. The finishing off work I did during Tuesday. It seems to have survived the gale; hopefully, it will last through to the Spring when we can see what needs to be done for  a proper re-roof. Ideally, I would hope to go for a change with some extra wedge shaped walling at the ends, new joists on a slope and the flat felted roof roof replaced with corrugated sheeting. The alternative is to have it re-felted and then put a sun-deck up there too. The forecast gale; when it arrived was less strong than many we have had recently. I think we escaped quite lightly this time around.

Gunge

So that brings me to gunge, despite wearing riggers gloves, and the oldest set of workwear I could find, the bitumen based roofing felt jollop gets through the tiniest of cracks. Yes it will scrub off, and needs to be as it is mildly hazardous, but how do you get it out from under finger nails?! Despite days of scrubbing there is still an un-shiftable layer underneath the finger nails.

Google, Facebook and changes

Cropped Screen Shot showing the, to me at least, pointless changes to Google.
Cropped Screen Grab showing the, to me at least, pointless changes to Google.

Google

Google have made, and are making further, changes. I can see the logic in the behind the scenes changes to how they are to index websites that are not structured in a way that is responsive to the device being used to access it. Technology has changed, Google needs to reflect that; yes it if forcing work onto web designers to ensure compliance but that is work that should be undertaken anyway to keep the websites current. What I really can’t see the point in though, and Twitter did the same thing recently, is the switch to round icons and rounded edges to search boxes etc. This seems to be just a design fad and change for change’s sake.

Facebook

The same can be said of Facebook’s annoying changes made recently (one example below); from a user’s perspective they are just annoying and are making social media, at least the FB aspect of it, more difficult. Shooting one’s self in the foot comes to mind, make it harder  to use and people won’t bother adding their content, less content less viewers, less viewers, less adverting revenue. This does not appear to require a genius to see.

Facebook no longer supports Publicise connections to Facebook Profiles, but you can still connect Facebook Pages. Please select a Facebook Page to publish updates to.

GDPR, was it pointless?

Now this is shaking down was it pointless? Today I startled one of the junk callers as they were clearly from the slightly more responsible end of this annoying trade. It was a human caller, not a recording, and obviously not expecting what she got. I definitely think my request that my details to be removed from their database under GDPR was not what she was expecting! Since doing that I have now decided I can use this regulation to my satisfaction. How? The next time someone rings I am going to ask them to supply me with my full details, as held under GDPR, and log their’s too so I can check compliance. On receipt of the info’ I will then add to their workload by asking them to remove it! Let’s annoy these blighters back!

Of course the counter problem is that regarding most of these annoying SPAM and Junk callers/emailers the GDPR is totally pointless – if you are spamming you are hardly likely to be operating within, or with a care for, the law or bothered about compliance with it. Very pleased though to note from the news that the regulations do have teeth and the first high-profile offender has been fined.

Writing and editing

Moving on from the G’s another SLS Journal done and published. All that needs doing now, and all is one of those words with a hidden meaning, is update the website with the latest contents. Why has all got a hidden meaning? The answer is simple, it appears to be an easy job, but in actuality is a lot of fuss and faff making changes to around a dozen pages to varying degrees of alteration. It will be done but may be delayed a bit.

Copy of SLSJournal cover
SLS Journal cover

 

Jottings for August

Image of Yorkshire Rose

It’s August

Image of a Yorkshire Rose.
Yorkshire Rose – original creator unknown.

Firstly why the Yorkshire rose? 1st August was Yorkshire day, a day when we can all celebrate the best of the county and our heritage.

I was going to head up this up as August jottings, however, that would perhaps have suggested a gravitas for the post far greater than justified. The problem being positioning of the capital letter, would it get read as August (the month) or august (the word)? Conversely, the revision immediately suggests the blindingly obvious retaliation of “no s**t Sherlock”, although, when placed in the listing of blog posts sorted by title, it will be logical.

Why add this jotted note? July, for me, had been one with a high output of writing, 5000 words of academic prose for a Conference, interspersed with fiction pieces at two writer’s groups plus some work on the first draft of an ongoing work of my own. Together those generated around another 5-6000 words. The style swapping was an interesting challenge.

Today’s blog post therefore just a few observations on writing, publicity and the related software used.

Heat

Indoors, or outdoors, where to write in a heatwave? The dilemma of going outdoors is that whilst the concept is ideal, the practicality of working with a laptop screen in the outdoors not so. Indoors though is hot and stuffy unless all the windows are open; opening the windows attracts in the flies. Not only that but the very Mediterranean nature of the weather is a distraction to aid procrastination. How did those writers who deliberately based themselves in the Med’ cope?

Facebook changes – adding complications

This appears to be a company, for whatever reason, trying its hardest to shoot itself in the foot. They have decided that blog posts can no longer be linked to a Profile but have to go to a Page. (See quote below from my ISP)

“Facebook no longer supports Publicize connections to Facebook Profiles, but you can still connect Facebook Pages. Please select a Facebook Page to publish updates to.”

That doubles the hassle and faff for the content provider. I do not currently have a separate author page; for the SLS where I manage the FB content, we have that split and there are some issues, for example people Friend one or the other – not both, and content often shows up twice in the main FB feed. That experience is why I have, to date, neither needed, nor wanted, a second FB page; my serious stuff is on my website.

(Updated) It initially it appeared the back-door cheat for a blog link still worked, that a twitter post forwards onto a FB page, as it appeared to work when first tested. It appears that is not the case for blog posts – out to Twitter – then on to FB does not work. Only Twitter posts started on Twitter hold the FB link.

FB are also, allegedly, messing about with their filtering algorithms, probably forced on them by the fake news scandals, although the cynic in me suggests this is entirely from a need to boost income via paid for content promotion. I will await this outcome with interest. FB generally is a poorer service than it was (personal opinion obviously) with many posts from people I am friends with on FB never showing up: either they have moved on to other social media providers or the filters stop me seeing their posts.

That generates the last observation – social media was a great  invention when there were only a few providers. Now that there is a wide spread I find there are too many to monitor or push content into all, it therefore decreases the usefulness of social media to both content providers and readers.

Software changes generally

More changes on the way, this time in the WordPress editor. I don’t mind changes where it adds functionality, although relearning can be annoying when they move items from one menu to another (needlessly from a customer perspective), or even worse removal in the new release of a useful piece of functionality that was in the older version. The latter something done over the years by both Adobe and Microsoft.

NB Post subsequently updated regarding Facebook.

My next published work

Cover ERC6

Early Railways 6  – Edited by Anthony Coulls

This book, Early Railways 6, for which this is the advance call for subscriptions, will be my next academically published work.

Cover of Early Railways 6
Cover of Early Railways 6 (Source & Copyright Six Martlets)

The series of Early Railways Conferences held its sixth gathering in June 2016 in the cradle of railway history that is Newcastle, with visits and events across Tyneside away from the conference venue. A full programme of papers showed that there is still a rich seam of research being undertaken into early railways across the globe. In this volume, a selection of papers cover that international aspect whilst others break new ground in terms of location and subject, always part of the excitement of the conference, where conversations over coffee turn up new research potential almost every minute. Dr Michael Lewis examines the very basics of early pointwork and track, John R New’s paper explores why the horse was displaced as motive power and Dr David Gwyn reflects on the first railways in Africa. Between the variety of other papers, the social, economic and technological history of early railways is covered. Given the amazing wooden waggonway discovery and excavations on Tyneside in the summer of 2014, the book begins with Discovering the Willington Waggonway which was the public lecture and sets the tone for the rest of the publication.

The papers

Discovering the Willington Waggonway: Archaelogical excavations at Neptune Yard on North Tyneside in 2013, R Carlton, L Turnbull & A Williams

Early Railways In The Bristol Coalfield,Steve Grudgings

Why Killingworth?,Robert F Hartley

Pointwork to 1830, Dr M J T Lewis

Why Displace the Horse? John R New

Early Locomotives of the St. Etienne-Lyon Railway, Miles McNair

Blücher and After: A Re-assessment of George Stephenson’s First Locomotives Dr Michael R. Bailey

Interpreting Sources for the operation of the Durham & Sunderland Railway 1836-56, Colin Mountford

Early Locomotive Performance, Peter Davidson

Penydarren Re-Examined Andy Guy, Dr Michael Bailey, Dr David Gwyn, Robert Protheroe Jones, Dr Michael Lewis, John Liffen, and Jim Rees

Two Early French Non-Railways, Dr M J T Lewis

Joseph Atkinson and the Early Images of the Tanfield Arch, Robin Adams

Plateways, Steel Road Rails, and Rutways in Australia, Dr Jim Longworth and Phil Rickard

The First Railways in Africa, Dr David Gwyn

When to Stop Digging: Assessing the Excavated Evidence, Helen Gomersall

Sierra Leone: Proposals for a Colonial Early Railway, Anthony Coulls

Publication

The book will be published by Six Martlets Publishing on behalf of the sponsors at the discounted price of £35 each plus postage and packing. To reserve a copy go to www.earlyrailways.org.uk or contact the publisher for an order form.

The postage and packing rates will be: UK, £3.50 per book. Europe, £9.00 per book. Other countries, £14.00 per book.

All subscribers will receive a copy of the book at the discounted price for advance payment and will have their subscription acknowledged in the preliminary pages. The subscription list will close on 1 October 2018 and the book will be published shortly after. This will be the only opportunity to obtain a copy at the discounted price. To order contact Six Martlets Publishing, c/o Better Prepared Ltd, 15 Diamond Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes MK15 0DU. sixmartlets@uwclub.net

ER6 was sponsored by The Newcomen Society, The Railway and Canal Historical Society, The Institution of Civil Engineers & The National Railway Museum. The Stephenson Locomotive Society also fully support the publication of this volume containing papers presented at the Conference by several SLS members. Although, as at the 2016 event date, the SLS, of which I am a Director, was not one of the official event sponsors the SLS has subsequently become actively involved in promoting the Early Railways Conference serial.

Notes

  1. More about the 2016 Conference was in my September 2016 blog post.
  2. List of all my published work.

 

April and June (Missed blog posts)

Steam loco

Missed blog posts (April & June)

This is a shortened rewording of what formed the Editorial to the most recent SLS Journal and Newsletter (J912 July/August), a bi-monthly magazine which I now edit and giving the reasons for my missing the task of making blog posts here during both April and June.

SLS stand

SLS Stand ready for show opening Easter 2018

Firstly my apologies for the fact there was no blog post made during either April or June. This was disheartening as I had been consistently managing one a month before then. However, during the run up to the expected dates I was ill and with my commitment to getting a Journal out, and attending the York Model Railway Show over the Easter weekend both as a Show Director and with the SLS display stand, all my spare time just vaporised.

Steam loco
MN Class 35006 Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co. at the Cotswolds Festival of Steam

The illness continued through May, and as I had the next Journal to get out, together with taking the SLSL Stand to the Cotswold Festival of Steam and writing/presenting a paper to the Second Early Mainline Railway Conference in York during late June, of necessity, those were also prioritised. 

What I had thought it was initially, hay fever, it almost certainly was not and I therefore looked around for possible alternatives.It was probably not legionnaires disease as such but the symptoms were similar hence mentioning it in this post. Hopefully the illness’ cause has now been traced to either bugs coming through from the car air conditioning unit or bugs in the car screen washer system (both, obviously, now sanitised). I would certainly encourage anyone suffering any odd flu like symptoms to consider getting their car air conditioning unit and the screen washer system checked out. This illness has hit me three years running and I had not previously correlated it to warm weather and the first early season use of the car AC. Whilst the flu like illness may be unrelated to that it has not returned since the work was carried out on the car.

Both images by and copyright the author. NOT FOR REPUBLICATION.

A short Harry Potter fan-fic

Harry Potter

A slight change from recent blog posts as, although the content mentioned previously still justifies being written, I have not had time to add it. Therefore for this month’s post a short piece of Harry Potter fan fiction written from an idea and title sparked by the recent Weymouth Writing Matters group take-away prompt of Absent Friends. The date is the usual start date for Surrey schools and has been verified*(1).

Absent friends

Wednesday, 4th September 1991, was proving a worrisome day for one small, now insignificant, boy. Gordon Harrison’s two best friends from the last few years, Dudley Dursley and Piers Polkiss, had both left, going off together to Smeltings, their new private school but Gordon’s parents had not felt the expense was value for money. With its annual fees well over the cost of a new car the Harrisons felt that, however much Gordon nagged, whined and badgered about it, Smeltings just wasn’t worth the effort or expense.

It wasn’t that his parents were anti private education, oh no, they just couldn’t afford to enrol him into the few private schools where the nation’s true elite sent their sons and daughters and therefore considered, perhaps rightly, that anywhere less showed a loss of face. Smeltings was definitely a non-U sort of school to the Harrison’s social circle. Also, if truths were to be shared, which in the Harrisons circle of suburban cronies of course it rarely was, neither parent felt Gordon was bright enough to justify the cost. No, the cover story of wanting to support the local education system was good enough and far more socially acceptable all round.

Had they felt inclined to do so finding school fees for Gordon would have meant dropping too many other social activities and niceties; their motor cruiser on the Solent and the villa in the Dordogne brought with them just that necessary veneer of social respectability that funding a second-rate school for the boy couldn’t match. Albert and Jennifer Harrison understood the social niceties of commuter belt Surrey in the way that neither the fawning Vernon Dursley, nor his shrew like wife Petunia, had ever quite grasped.

The outcome of the long months of one-sided family arguments had led to this morning and Gordon standing waiting for a number 442 bus into Stanwell by himself. Technically he wasn’t alone at the bus stop at the end of Privet Drive; but he was undoubtedly there on his own. The other children with him, also off to Stonewall High the local comprehensive, were a mix of ages, laughing, joking, sharing, brothers, sisters, friends, a mix of school years, but all noticeably shunning Gordon. He was going to have to face the new big school for the first time on his own.

Without his two mates there was no one to bully and the gang’s former school morning target, Dudley’s cousin Harry, had also gone off to a school up-country somewhere. So here he stood, surrounded by the kids who had been his classmates at the Little Whinging Primary for the last six years, and they were not interested in him.

From the smallest bedroom window of number 4 Privet Drive Petunia Dursley had earlier caught a glimpse of Dudley’s friend walking past on his way to the bus stop and wondered how her own boy was settling in at Smeltings. To her nephew, Harry Potter, who’s bed she had been stripping for the weekly wash, she gave hardly a thought.

When the bus arrived Gordon was jostled and pushed, an elbow caught him hard in the ribs, and he was sure young Deidre Fortescue had stood on his toes on purpose. Last on board he was forced to stand as the other youngsters took the seats reserved for them by their friends. It was going to be a long, long term for Gordon Harrison.

Notes

  1. As with the Hogwarts term dates UK Independent and State schools do not, of necessity, have matching term dates. Whether or not Dudley and Piers would have left for Smeltings to commence their term before the start of the term at Stonewall High is unknown. All canon suggests in Philosophers Stone is that Dudley was going off to have his tail removed after Harry had been dropped at Kings Cross on 1st September.
  2. Incidentally Wednesday 4th is the correct day/date; 1st September 1991 was a Sunday. Some divergences exit between actual and written calendars as documented here.
  3. Gordon [Surname unspecified] is a member of Dudley’s bullying gang as mentioned in Chap 3 of Philosophers Stone.
  4. COPYRIGHT  – All references to the Harry Potter characters and locations mentioned above are fully recognised as the intellectual property of J K Rowling and her publishers.

April – the missing month

Why no April post?

Due to the increasing pressures of my SLS workload since taking on the role of Journal Editor, plus other work related to the new GDPR system there was no time to write and publish an April blog post for which I apologise.

I had content to write, just not the time to write it, therefore it became the first missing month in over two years.

 

Non-stop editing!

Photo - dippy

A month of solid editing

I ended last month’s blog expressing hopefully “What would have been the January content will therefore appear during February when I get back home and resume normality.” Well that hoped for return to normality during February went well, or not! What it ended up as was a month of solid editing to get my second SLS Journal and Newsletter out on time. My problem; not the page layout et al, but all the catch up reading of back submissions to find the content ready to drop in. It is easing, the third edition will be a bit easier again from the experience gained from editing the first two. I am already planning content for the issues through to December.

Is there a lesson to be learnt by other Societies – yes – succession planning. That said, we did try, but no other suitably experienced member volunteered. My lesson learnt, if you know at the back of your mind that reality is you are going to get roped in regardless, give in early and take the longest lead in period you can get.

image of Journal cover
The March/April cover (C) SLS/AISLT with thanks to the A1SLT for permission to use the image.

The earlier editing job

Image Front cover NG & Miniature
Front cover NG & Miniature
Image Eclectic Electrics the front cover design
Eclectic Electrics the front cover design

 

As mentioned in the November blog post I was also Production Editor for the SLS in producing the first two volumes of material from The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives.(Cover images above)

  • Narrow Gauge & Miniature (From The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives Vol 1)
  • Eclectic Electrics (From The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives Vol 2)

Sales went live on the Society stand at the NEC and copies will also be available from us at the London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace and over the following Easter weekend at York Model Railway. They can also be ordered from me direct by post. The SLS Board has approved electronic selling but I have yet to get the system into place on the Society website.

PayPal and other computer gremlins

The most recent editing nightmare, a fault with the way the Google app on i-phones and i-pads interacts with the code we got from PayPal to sell tickets on the York Model Railway Show website. (I am Website Manager) The culprit is not Google Chrome, that is fine, but their search app. The app ignores the shopping cart it is supposed to open and tries to log directly into the customer’s PayPal account. This system has worked properly for eighteen months, why does the mighty Google feel the need to make changes that then b*****s up other systems that were working properly. Not good customer care by them, although I like to think our own response was better than the other customer care issue discovered recently – Apple repair fault logging and repair protocols (See next item).

Apple’s appalling customer care protocol

This final item is a bit of a rant and gives me another Victor Meldrew feeling about the sanity of some modern ways of doing things. Have organisations learnt nothing about customer care?

Scenario – I drop my Apple laptop it needs a fix as the display becomes intermittent. Oh yes I think to myself there is an Apple dealer in Bournemouth, I’m in Bournemouth tomorrow, I will drop it off for repair. Off I duly tootle to the said Apple shop (Solutions inc) who I have used before. To paraphrase –

“I’d like to drop this off for repair please.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No I just want to drop it off for repair.”

You can’t without an appointment.” (Duh thinks I – a shop that doesn’t want you to buy the service!!!)

“So I have to waste time and money driving home today, ring you, and then come back again? That’s madness and unacceptable!”

“But it is Apple’s policy Sir, no appointment, no drop off, no fix! (Shades of Jobsworth, or worse, me thinks)

At this point I got very firm and eventually a techie deigned to appear from the bowels of the shop, discuss my issue and take the lap-top in.

Dear Apple – Either the staff at your dealership are a complete bunch of numpties or your accredited repair logging system, they claim they have to use it, is the most ridiculous state of BAD customer care I have ever come across. How about this – It’s a shop and authorised repair dealer, you walk in with a repair job, they take the order and any due examination/inspection fee money and then a techie looks at the job later in the queue (customers are not stupid – we understand queues and waiting lists), it then gets fixed/can’t be fixed and the customer is rung and advised either it is ready or is bust beyond economic repair. How difficult is that?

Finally – Dippy the dinosaur in Dorchester

Despite the horrendous monsoon like half-term weather on the day over half term we had booked, and the car failing to start, we visited Dippy with the family. The outcome was two awed grand-children and four very impressed adults.

Photo - dippy
Dippy the dinosaur ‘on tour’ at Dorchester Photo: C) John New (Has had some minor digital adjustment/de-skewing)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS A final note

It’s not that February was a hectic month or anything but this update for the month got posted almost at the deadline of midnight on the 28th. Final editing took place today, Thursday 1st March!

A literary month

Picture of the new books and SLS Journals

A literary month

Two connected, but disparate, sections to this blog post describing my literary month. The first a completed task and introduction to a new role as Editor of The Stephenson Locomotive Society Journal; the second related to local theatre productions.

Stella, my wife, stage managed Me and My Girl so a lot of work in the household went into that both in the months leading up to the show and in show week itself. To add to that drama connection the local Royal Manor Theatre here on Portland recently ran a production of Old actors never Die and as a consequence we got that title at Weymouth Writing Matters as one of our a prompts. Given it will soon be time to assist as a volunteer with the Weymouth Pavilion Panto prep’ time it seemed appropriate to also add my own small tribute to the thespian’s craft below.

A teaching day

The other generator of workload was an invitation to give a talk on the history of railways to a group of Polish exchange students staying over at Clevedon in Somerset. The students had come over to the UK to get experience of a range of topics and issues prior to selecting a career: one of those careers being the option of working on the railway back in Poland, hence this talk. Initially envisioning the usual hour to an hour and half of talking (as for a local club/society evening) it eventually turned out to be a four hour, full day. My recent BACOM experience and training at Bournemouth in presentation skills certainly came to the fore; it went well. A day’s teaching, a first for me, and an experience I found surprisingly satisfying.

Photo from the history talk.
An image used in the presentation. 150 years of progress in one picture. Left – The gas turbine APT – 175 mph in 1975. Centre – Iron Duke (Replica) 60 mph – 1840s. Right – Rocket (Replica) 32 mph in 1830. Image (C) John New

Editing time

Picture of the new books and SLS Journals
The final proofs for the two new SLS books. The final editions are perfect bound NOT wire bound. Images (C) John New.

Since coming back from summer holiday life has been hectic with book editing for The Stephenson Locomotive Society. A deep end start to the role I’ve also just taken on of Editor for the bi-monthly Journal; first edition will be January/February. But back to the books – launching at the Warley Model Railway Show at the NEC on 25/26 November the first two volumes of material from the SLS Archives.

  • Narrow Gauge & Miniature (From The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives Vol 1)
  • Eclectic Electrics (From The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives Vol 2)

On launch weekend they will be available on our stand (Hall 5, Stand D44) at £9.50 each (£7.50 to Society members). Postal sales will be available post-Show once the P&P situation is finalised. (When available generally it will be announced on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, the SLS Twitter feed and the SLS Publications page)

Old actors never die

They say old actors never die; like the ancient pagan gods they remain alive as long as they are adored, worshiped, remembered. Their old posters and fading photographs line the walls of musty corridors and theatre bars, slowly fading as the plays they starred in pass from living memory.

The ephemera of a craft, the passing of time, each show a snapshot, unlike cinema, where time remains frozen. The youthful face of the craggy old star shambling from Hollywood café to occasional TV studio appearance, their old movies endlessly repeating on obscure channels; a cruel reminder of past glories. The long legs dancing the kick line, the piercing smile of the male lead, forever captured, reality the decline, the baton passed to the new replacement.

Times change, tastes change, the star of yesterday’s western unnoticed in Wallmart, the silent queens of the silver screen, glorious in mono, passed over in colour. No more repeats of the Keystone Cops to entertain the kids at the Saturday flicks: 633 Squadron flies to face the deadly Hun no longer, the Eagles Dared but the Empire Struck back.

The house lights dim, the curtain rises, the new crop take the stage; from the wings the old look on, coaching, training, remembering. The words they spoke last the ages; for some their memory will be immortal, names spoken in reverent tones, their routines rehashed and recast, even perhaps immortalised as a new sweet desert, fruity, tangy, was Dame Nellie like that in life?

As they say in showbiz, another opening of another show. As the door closes for one for another it opens. For some, the very best, it will stay revolving, but sadly, for most, like a child’s spinning top the hum and buzz will gently fade away.

Copyright on all the above remains with the author – not released into the public domain.

Mental health awareness

Weather vane image

World Mental Health Day (10th October)

Across the world this week mental health will be featured on radio and television programmes and in our daily newspapers. The reason the World Health Organisation (WHO) have designated 10th October as World Mental Health Day. It is the hidden illness, the one nobody ever talks about, the one with all the stigmas attached. “Men don’t cry”; “Buck up, you’re not ill”, “What have you got to be worried about?” you hear it all the time; but not from sufferers. There are too few safety valves, all too often the sufferer bottles up the feelings, then breaks catastrophically.

Work place stress

As the UK’s Mental Health Foundation outline this year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is mental health in the workplace. This is no minimal issue, the HSE’s official figures for 2015/16 identified nearly half a million sufferers or 1.5% of the UK workforce! That the NHS services to aid suffers are being cut is a scandal and a national disgrace.

I link my quad heart-bypass op 10 years ago to accumulated issues; a primary cause being workplace stress. I hope my two written pieces included below can put over the alternative; it is out there and needs to be shared.

Weather vane image
Wind rider; Colwall, Herefordshire. (C) John New

Panic attack

When you’re standing on top of the world and you start looking down it begins; a mix of fear and exhilaration, waltzing in on the wind in the air, a maelstrom possessing your thoughts. They react, taking over your brain, turning, spinning, one moment laughter, the next like someone has grabbed your neck, garrotting, you feel for a moment that you can’t breathe. Then the panic attack disperses, you look, take in the view, the far distant horizon, blue and hazy. Not touchable but definitely visible.

You know how sometimes you smell something and it’s the same effect. Grabbing you, taking you out from where you are, to the place you remember; often fondly, but sometimes with fear, leading down into a dark abyss. On a good day you’re abseiling, the tethering rope holding fast, the drop manageable, the climb back a quick hop onto the escalator.

When you ride the wind, taking the chances, the horizon is in reach, an achievable goal growing ever closer. When the wind takes you, it gusts and buffets, twists, turns, the horizon spinning and turning. Only you will notice, inside all is in turmoil, but outside all is looking normal with the world turning as it always does, always will.

Release day

An October morning like any other
but that’s not actually true
alarm gone off as usual
tea and coffee made
dressing for work
today though the bus
probably off to the pub later.
What will it be like?
Will it be stressful?
Is this how a prisoner feels?

Normality for a while longer
who am I kidding.
Get through it, keep going
No tears, relief,
yes feeling that
Don’t plant the boss whatever you feel
Management may be callous
Thumping them though
not really the answer
The sort of B’ word you want to say
welling in you, but stifled.

It’s over, twenty six years gone
You can walk away
The big door opens
You are free!
Free to begin again
Do what you’ve always wanted to do
Stress free at last,
a last look at the door over your shoulder
Then back to your mates
Off to the pub, a celebration
No regrets, just relief
So glad, unlike them I can get a bus
No walk back to the shackles
of a hell hole office
Yes, I do feel like a released prisoner
The scars may be easier to work off
but they’re there going deep
Management bullying no more
Release, freedom, retirement,
Thank god I’ve survived
and, unlike my father
I’m still healthy enough to enjoy it.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Hoping that in some small way this post today can at least help someone realise they are not alone.

Updates – Support networks

Since writing the above I have added the sections below.

How to Deal With Stress at Work

A further article on Work Place Stress worth reading is this one by Helen Sanders ‘Beyond Blue – How to Deal with Stress at Work‘ and it can be found on the Health Ambitions website.

Alcoholism

A related problem and one for which support is also required. I am therefore more than happy to add this link as requested by the group.

Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a free and impartial helpline for people troubled with drug and alcohol issues.  Rehab 4 Alcoholism aims to save lives by stopping addiction before it becomes too late. Tel: 0800 111 4108 Web:https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com

Copyright

The above is not released into the public domain and remains the copyright of the author; John New. (C) 2017. [Last updated/revised 15 May 2018]