Wednesday, 16 July 2014

How Not To Win An Election

So there's been a lot of chat in the news recently about female cabinet ministers and our current Government wishing to employ women in politics. I don't think that's a bad idea at all. Women aren't second-class citizens or inferior to men, and they are more than capable of leading this country. We have a very professional and dedicated local councillor here in Northumberland who's doing a fine job for us; her campaigning alone is a credit to her committed approach for our region.

But let's get this into perspective: I don't normally blog about politics because a) I find it too boring, and b) it's such a controversial topic to discuss that most people just click off. Who can blame them?  Not me, that's for sure. However, apart from the article in (I believe) the worst newspaper since the hacking scandal, though it could be the worst newspaper ever created, there is yet another ridiculous write-up about women politicians, what they wear and how they look. WHO CARES?

We are living in the 21st century. 2014. Women are just as entitled to work as men are and if they are the better person for the job in a line up of cabinet ministers then so be it. I couldn't care less if our female politicians turned up in a black bin liner with straw in their hair. So long as they can sort this country out what on earth does it matter? It's not just the talked-about article that has irritated me though, it's the whole fact that this is even being discussed in the first place. There are some absolute dicks in Parliament, never mind the Cabinet, yet they are never judged on what they wear. Women, it seems, are judged on just about everything, yet least of all what policies they have and how good at their job they are. The majority of our politicians are very middle to upper class and have little knowledge about us plebs at the bottom of the pile. We can assume that is because they either aren't interested or they just don't want to be associated with the working class - or should I say "hardworking people"?

So let's stop worrying about what our female politicians are wearing, how they style their hair, whether they're in heels or flats and whether or not they've put lipstick on; let's ask how competent they are at lifting the country from its knees. Sexism is everywhere and perhaps our Prime Minister is trying to eradicate it in his Cabinet reshuffle, though the cynical side of me thinks this could have something to do with the forthcoming General Election and the possibility that a more feminine approach to politics might just tempt our younger generation of women to vote for the Premier and his team. Who knows? And like I said, who cares? Do the job properly and you'll get my vote whatever colour bin bag you choose to wear.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Radio Northumberland

Tune into Radio Northumberland at 4.30pm TODAY AND TOMORROW (Saturday and Sunday) to hear me on the Paranormal Show talking about my books and lots of ghostly communication! With presenters Paul Green and Claire Sloan. (Click the Link below) 





Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Shoddy Response from Thomson

You may remember I wrote a letter to Thomson Holidays some time back after being rather frustrated at their shoddy seat booking system and the fact there were hardly any seats left on the plane for me to book. I have finally received a response that is neither here nor there and is, quite frankly, a waste of time.

"Thanks for your letter about your holiday to Cyprus.

Firstly I'm sorry to learn you're unhappy with the service you've received to date from us. We're always aiming to improve our service so it's great to get your feedback so we can monitor our customer satisfaction. (Not much point really if they take no bloody notice of it!!!!!)

I note from your letter, you're unhappy with the seat selection you had to choose from on your flight as you wished to book seats at the front of the plane due to your daughter being autistic. (That is absolute rubbish - it had nothing to do with Amy being autistic. I was actually unhappy with the fact there were hardly any fucking seats to choose from, so something else they took no notice of.) I can advise all customers who pre book  their seats on the plane, will be given access to their seating plan 90 days prior to their return date to select their seat numbers. (That's bollocks for a start; the shop I used didn't have access to it!)

I've today worked out (this letter was dated 28/06/14) that on the 14th May 2014, your seating plan would have been open for you to select your seat numbers. (According to the shop it wasn't open on that date otherwise I'd have sodding booked them, wouldn't I?!!!!) However I can see you didn't choose your seats until the start of June, which meant other customers would have been able to select their seats before you logged on. (Logged on? I went into the shop to book the seats!) All our seats are on a first come first serve basis however when customers choose to pre book their seats we will guarantee their party sitting together, whether this is next to each other, across an aisle or behind one another.

In regards to our seating plan opening 90 days from customers return date of travel, which means customers on a 7 night duration are at an advantage at selecting their seats. Unfortunately we're unable to change this policy so customers can select their seats number 90 days from their departure date or when they add pre bookable seats on to their booking as our policy has always been 90 days prior to customers return date of travel. Once again I do apologise for this and for any inconvenience caused. (Of course, this rule was made by someone so high up the chain of Thomson employees that it couldn't possibly be changed now. Why didn't I think of that...?!)

The service you're received is not what we would hope for, so I'm sorry for your experience. Your comments have been passed onto the relevant department so they can learn from your comments and put any required training and improvements in place. (And the point of that is what, exactly?)

Thanks again for contacting us and letting us know your thoughts. We'll keep working towards making sure we're providing the best possible service. If you've got any other questions then you're welcome to get back in touch. (Welcome?)  I hope that despite any disappointment you go on to have a fantastic time in Cyprus. (Well you won't be spoiling it, that's for sure.)

Yours sincerely"

I think this is a pretty poor response. I didn't expect miracles and I certainly didn't expect preferential treatment, but they are clearly not going to do anything about my "thoughts". I'm not going to let it get to me because so long as we get there and back safely, I intend to enjoy two weeks in the sun. What I won't be doing is going on any of their ridiculously priced excursions. And I do think whoever typed that letter up ought to learn about punctuation and grammar. When writing formal correspondence to a client, it really does matter.


Friday, 4 July 2014

Major Confidence Boost

Had an amazing experience yesterday (Thursday) when I met two fascinating people after being invited as a guest on Radio Northumberland. Paul Green (aka The Psychic Biker) and Claire Sloan (founder of paranormal investigations show Shadows of The Night) made me welcome in their recording studio and we hit it off after seconds of being in each other's company. I admit I was a little nervous about the prospect of speaking into a microphone over the airwaves but it was a recorded interview and informal chat which meant Paul was able to edit out any rambling and tongue twisters I would inevitably manage to do. Both complete professionals, they made me feel comfortable and at ease and didn't ask too many probing questions! In fact, they made me feel so confident that I'm hoping they'll ask me back to do another show some time...

I was asked questions like, what inspired me to write paranormal, when did I first become interested in the paranormal, what experiences have I had - all answers I was eager to give because as you know, talking about mediumship and all things spiritual is what my life is about. We talked about my books of course, that was the main reason for being invited on the show, and I was given some glowing compliments particularly concerning the Rosehill series. (Claire was also quite interested in Bedknobs and Bachelors so I'm sending her a signed copy - I think she quite fancies the main character, Gary Stringer, and his notches-on-the-bedpost-antics...)

But apart from the fabulous fun we had, the great company and particularly interesting experience of doing a recorded interview for a major radio station, those couple of hours have given me a huge boost in confidence, and those regular followers and readers of this blog will know that is something I've struggled with for a very long time. When I got home I realised that there is a whole new world out there and I need to explore it.

So thank you, Paul and Claire, for making me smile again, for all the compliments, for the amazing experience and for becoming my two newest friends.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Another Door

Amy and I go on holiday in less than five weeks. I can't believe it's come round so quickly. I haven't bought very much in the way of summer clothes this time as haven't really needed to due to the amount of new items I bought last year for our fortnight in Kos. We've chosen Cyprus this year, a place I've been to a few times. I dare say I'm ready for a holiday, who isn't, but this one is going to be spent doing an awful lot of thinking and pondering of my future. Two weeks on a sun lounger in heat that not many of us can stand, a glistening pool just yards away and a golden sandy beach at my disposal will be cause for relaxation I'm sure. So many years in my life have been compared to a roller-coaster ride, but this one in particular has found me waiting at the top of the incline, pondering the drop.

It's harvest time soon. How I used to love those days. Tearing round the fields on a quad bike, dodging straw bales, watching four excited collies jump from one bale to the other. Once upon a time the land used to come alive with workers in the fields, roaring up and down in a combine or a tractor before they'd stop for tea in a flask and a homemade scone. We would chat and admire the yield, laugh about the banter on the CB radios, then the wives would hop back on the quad bikes with empty flasks and crumb-laden Tupperware whilst the farmers would climb back into their monster-machines to continue the hard labour that harvest warrants.

Those days are gone.

They ceased a few years ago.

I'm not sure whether I ever really did fit in to the ideal of being a farmer's wife.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Turn Back The Clock

There are some things I'm starting to miss in my life that make me really resent this condition I have called Epilepsy. I'm sure you've heard of it. Some people collapse without a moments warning, shaking uncontrollably before coming round in a daze and not having a clue what their own name is, never mind that of the current monarch. This was me five years ago and I thought I was going to die. Not to put too fine a point on it, it's a fucking crap condition to live with but it's one that is a part of me and therefore I have no choice but to get on with my life. Medication taken at twelve-hourly intervals keeps it under control but there's no saying I won't have another seizure at any time.

But I look after myself, you see. I don't drink, don't smoke, don't get too stressed unless my husband speaks to me, I eat healthy-ish, I exercise regularly, and I try to get plenty rest, even if it's just half an hour sitting on the bed staring into space. There have been times recently, however, where I've felt like murdering an alcoholic beverage - Southern Comfort, Baileys, Cider, Red Wine, all drinks I enjoyed far too regularly, once upon a time. I'd like to go and watch a movie at the cinema occasionally but the frequency in the projected images could affect the wires that don't quite fuse together in my brain. I'd like to go to a concert once in a while but I can't risk strobe or flashing lights.

In a parallel universe I can see myself bopping in a nightclub with a large glass in one hand, a ciggie in the other, and my high heels clicking the dance floor. I miss my 20s. They were easy and carefree. I'd like them back, just for a little while.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

PSHE - The Lesson They Should Ban

Have you ever been so incandescent with rage that you can't speak? I admit I have, many times, it's part of my nature - in a get-it-off-your-chest kind of way. But something has riled me so much recently that I'm struggling to find the right words to express my anger. I need to compose myself and not charge in like a bull in a china shop, as my good friend Dave pointed out - he's known me more than 30 years so he has a right to make a valid point. Jeez, though, what is it now that's got me so wound up, I hear you yawn?

In a nutshell, sexism. Before I go into full on sweary, ranty and Victor Meldrew mode, I should point out that I have spent the last 13 years living with a sexist pig and if you read my previous post you may put two and two together and realise you don't need a calculator to work out my current dilemma. But the sexism in my current incandescent raging state of fury is a lesson at Amy's school that seems to have become an excuse to talk about all things concerning fucking nonsense, known as PSHE. I don't know the teacher who stands at the front of the class and lectures these vulnerable teenage girls but I make it my mission to assure she gets to know me. Last week, my 14 year old hormonal teenager told me how they've been talking about masturbation, conception, contraception, and most worryingly, how cute babies are - to some maybe, to me, not. They haven't been told how much hard work they are, what a huge mountain of responsibility they bring, how they change your life, you know, all the things we parents find out once we've opened our love tunnels and introduced one into the age of iPads. Oh no, babies are cute and cuddly and something - wait for it - "every woman wants."

Unfortunately, that's just the bun in the oven; we haven't got to the icing bit yet. According to my daughter's invisible teacher, when her female pupils are older, they will want to get married and have children because this is what women do. And... when they've got their cute and cuddly bundles of snot and tears, it will be their responsibility to nurture and bring them up. Dads will help occasionally but it's more or less mum's responsibility. And guess what else our resident sexist woman of the world made clear? That these women who have waited all their lives to destroy their under carriage and be tied to a bag of Pampers, will also "want to" and be "expected to" do all the housework.

Is this what we really want for our next generation of women? Some girls will grow up, get married and have the experience of teething gel and regurgitated formula, but my girl wants to grow up and work with animals. What right does anyone have to put ideas into MY daughter's head about what she will do with her future?

I'm thinking about this one carefully because I will not be bullied into assuming this ludicrous excuse to waste a few hours a week at school is what Amy really needs. Our kids need to be taught the facts of life. What they don't need to be taught is how giving their boyfriend a blow job could be a wonderful experience. Sex between consenting adults should be a beautiful thing, not a sordid experiment.










Thursday, 26 June 2014

Too Many Cliches

The dream lifestyle can never last. We think we have it all and some of us do, for a while. Then we open our eyes and look towards the horizon and realise we've never really had it all, we just enjoyed the voyage. My ship has docked only I struggle to work out which walkway is best to disembark. Each twist and turn as complicated as the last prompts me to ask too many questions that will eventually lead me to jumping overboard. Handling a situation and getting through it is one thing: knowing you've come to the end of the journey is another. The grass was greener once upon a time; now it's just grass.

Life is for living, so they say. I haven't been doing much of that lately, not living for 'me' at any rate. I see an open door ahead. I need to decide whether to walk through it or continue cruising to a port called 'Nowhere'.

CJ x

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Refreshingly Mobile

How difficult is it to buy a new phone these days? My trusty old BlackBerry is no longer trusty, and I've since made the decision to bring myself into the age of technology (God help me) and get myself sorted with a touch-screen gadget. When it comes to the technical age, I'm still scraping the barrel for anything made of bronze but I realise I must get my act together once and for all. Not only does my not-trusty old BlackBerry have a mind of its own, it needs to be reset at least once a day - every day - where I take the battery out, leave it for a few minutes then pop it back in and hope we're back in the land of the living. When I'm trying to read an email or send a text, going through all that rigmarole becomes rather frustrating to say the least. And so, last week, I pondered over a glass of Ribena and a Cadbury's Picnic and came to the conclusion that I ought to start looking around the mobile phone stores, dust off the cobwebs on my bank account, and face the dilemma that's been irritating me for months.

But it's not just the extensive choice of phones out there that confuses this bird from Bolton, oh no, it's all the different contracts, networks - should I stick with pay-as-you-go or commit myself to a ball and chain with a signal that probably won't reach the lambing sheds.

I still can't decide on the network, mainly because where I live it's very hit and miss with all of them; and I still can't decide on p-a-y-g or contract. I did order the one I wanted with my current network, EE, mainly because it was significantly less expensive than the exact same phone I've seen in Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U - but how strange that they have none in stock and have no idea when they will get any in. Suffice to say, I cancelled that order and am now back to square one.

I shall need plenty Picnics and pints of Ribena to get me through this one, and if anyone has any non-alcoholic gin, do send it my way.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Little Things

Every morning I get up at 6.45, go to see Amy and run through the same parrot-fashion, groundhog day routine of, 'what d'you want to eat?' And every day I get the same parrot-fashion, groundhog day reply of, 'I don't know.' I then search my fuzzy brain for the contents of the fridge and rhyme off a few items I think she might fancy, before we eventually settle on something. I traipse downstairs, get jumped on by three excited collies while the older one (Molly) resumes her position under the kitchen table, looking up at me, tail wagging, tongue lolloping, collect Amy's food then traipse back upstairs to deliver it to Her Royal Highness in order that she will eat it whilst getting dressed.

I don't mind doing this, no matter how much I'd love to turn over when the alarm's gone off and grab another hour, not to mention some action, but this morning I lay there thinking how she's 14 now and more than capable of getting herself up and rummaging for her own breakfast.

And then I remembered she's Amy.

Weekends are different. She does get herself up, albeit not at 6.45am, but nine times out of ten I still have to make sure she has at least a banana or some kind of fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt etc. Some mornings it's a toasted sandwich and that makes me feel better knowing she's eaten something fairly substantial. Heck, once or twice I make her a cooked breakfast; bacon, eggs, beans etc.

Autism doesn't stop you living a normal life. But it does make you more aware that you need support, however small, in order to fulfil it.