Thursday, 31 December 2015

Taking control over the emotion of memories

This is the *extended Wellbeing column, published in the York Press on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015.

As yet, there is no link to the York Press website. No doubt due to staff on holiday.

This is the last column for 2015 and I have been asked to continue writing a monthly column in 2016, my third year of writing for York Press. So see you next year!

“Strange how potent cheap music is.” Noel Coward.  Private Lives.

If music, cheap or otherwise, was not potent, then it wouldn't be used by advertising agencies to sell merchandise. At this time of year, we seem to be assaulted everywhere by Christmas music. Our brains block out most of it, but for many, there are one or two tunes that will ‘hijack’ our emotional brain and makes us stop and reflect on a memory that has come to mind. Perhaps our eyes become moist or we inwardly smile. Then most of us will stop the train of thought that is usually heading back into the past and get on with whatever we are doing in the present.

Personally, Chris Rea brings smiles from a warm memory, while choirs singing carols can bring tears of loss.

At home or in the car, I can listen to music of my own choosing. There is little choice elsewhere and I can be ‘emotionally hijacked’ in seconds.  The first thought cannot be helped, but there is control over the second.  If I wish to be self-indulgent and dwell in self-pity, it’s my choice. On rare occasions I will chose to continue to listen to music that makes me feel miserable, through the memories it evokes. Bittersweet memories.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often offered to people when their thoughts and subsequent behaviours are unhelpful. People can be helped to take control and change their thoughts, internal dialogue and actions. A thought will be triggered by an emotional reaction to something sensory. A smell, sight, taste, feel or touch. I’m writing about music, but it could be anything. Sometimes it’s not an obvious memory and we can often wonder why we’ve reacted in certain ways. 

It’s this brain function that can make Christmas time such an emotional time, with its variety of sensory triggers. Many people don’t like it for that reason. It’s also a time for trying to recapture the past, which is impossible and can cause disappointment with unfulfilled expectations.

If I was granted a wish by the Christmas fairy, it would be to have the family at home, around the table on Christmas Day.  This is logistically not possible, so this year we arranged to have a pre-Christmas gathering in late autumn instead. I looked at the extended family interacting and dwelled on the ‘if onlys' and ‘what ifs’. I was living in the past. It felt sad. Then I changed my internal dialogue. If I focused my mind on the past, I was going to miss what was happening in the present. I had the opportunity to make new memories. It became a cognitive exercise, not dissimilar to Mindfulness. I changed my train of thought and enjoyed the moment. I was making new memories. I felt happier.

*Over the Christmas period, I have been 'emotionally hijacked' on many occasions.  I always had a choice of where I took the train of thoughts and what mood ensued. Sometimes I indulged myself, because a duvet of self-indulgant misery can be strangely comforting at times. But only for the short-term. 

None of us know exactly what tomorrow will bring, let alone a whole year. I wish you all the emotional strength to manage whatever comes your way, bad and good, sad and happy, despair and elation, failure and success, pain and pleasure and all the ordinariness of in between.  

Here's to 2016 with my favourite quote.

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us." Helen Keller


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Following on from law 29.12.2015

This news item follows on from the previous blog. 

Next Tuesday, January 5th, a new law will be put into effect: "It aims to reduce psychological bullying that includes extreme psychological and emotional abuse, even if it does not amount to physical violence..."

There was a good discussion about the new law on Radio 4 PM at 17.00pm. It starts at 48mins. The programme uses dialogue from the fictional, but realistic dialogue in The Archers radio soap opera, that was also previously mentioned.

I am very pleased that psychological abuse is being recognised, but have a concern is that it will be difficult to prove in many cases. Vulnerable, manipulated people could be further manipulated by the legal process. 

As a member of Soroptimist International, I mainly support women and children, but men can also experience psychological abuse from women. Women are by no means saints. Children can experience psychological abuse from either or both parents and even grandparents. Sad. 

Anyone reading this blog for the first time, please read the previous blog for the list of behaviours that identifies both abusive behaviour and loving behaviour.


Monday, 30 November 2015

'Loves me, Loves me not' - The Archers BBC Radio 4.

This is the *extended Wellbeing Column published in York Press on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015. It is printed in the colour orange, as part of the UN 16 Days of Activism for Eliminating Violence Against Women. #orangetheworld 

*Several threads came together for this blog:

1. One thread is the long-running radio soap opera, 'The Archers' on BBC Radio 4.

Soaps like to have a villain. It generates media interest and increased listening figures. Soaps are also good at highlighting problems in their audience's lives, such as addictions, relationship problems, ill health, elderly care and domestic abuse. The latter has rarely been heard on 'The Archers', but over the last two years, a storyline has steadily been building around a character, Helen Archer, who recently married Rob Titchener. This man is using psychological manipulation, emotional abuse and possibly sexual abuse to gradually take control of all aspects of his wife's life. 

I have been a listener for decades, but find this storyline disturbing, as do many other women. Some people have stopped listening until the character is written out. I can listen and realise that it's only actors standing in a studio reading a script, but it's still difficult to hear at times. The scriptwriters and actors are to be congratulated for making it feel so real.

I must also admit to conversations with women who have not recognised what Rob Titchener is doing. I find that concerning.

2. A second thread is that I belong to a voluntary service organisation for women and children, called Soroptimist International (Great Britain & Ireland)  Many of the clubs in the UK and worldwide work on projects supporting women who have been abused. In highlighting the projects, it was decided to use the Archer's storyline to increase awareness of the Soroptimists organisation and their work.  'Women inspiring action, transforming lives.' A Facebook page has been set up called: Help the Ambridge One. It features project work being carried out by a variety of Soroptimist International clubs. 

A petition has also been drawn up to send Nicky Morgan MP, about cuts to the services available to abused women. Cuts in services will lead to an increase of domestic abuse. 

'The Archers' is fictional, but for thousands of women the abuse is real.

3. The third thread was article in York Press, by Maxine Gordon, which highlighted the work of a local Domestic Abuse charity in York. 

The column

Last week in Family Matters, Maxine Gordon highlighted Domestic Abuse and the work of IDAS in York. ( )
IDAS is a North Yorkshire Abuse Charity and is supported by several York organisations, including Soroptimist International York Ebor Club. (
Last weekend I was at the annual conference for Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland ( in Glasgow. Princess Anne was one of the speakers supporting inspiring Soroptimist projects. Projects being carried out by 80,000 members in 127 countries worldwide, as well as the UK.
Clubs in the Yorkshire Region recognised that, tragically, there are thousands of women and young girls in Yorkshire alone, experiencing abuse in a variety of forms. They founded an Anti-Slavery Group. These days, the term slavery covers trafficking, domestic abuse, grooming, female genital mutilation and slavery. The group created a ‘Loves me, loves me not’ bookmark and cards. Thousands have been given away to women and young adults. 
The ‘loves me, loves me not’ lists were created with straight, adult relationships in mind.  As a psychotherapist I recognised the ‘Loves me not’ behaviours in all types of dysfunctional relationships. Gay, Straight and Transgender. Parent - Child. Child - Parent.  Employer - Employee. Teacher - Student. Friend - Friend. 
Loves me 
  • Makes me feel safe
  • Makes me feel comfortable. 
  • Listens to me
  • Values my opinions 
  • Supports what I want to do in life 
  • Is truthful with me 
  • Admits to being wrong 
  • Respects me
  • Likes that I have other friends 
  • Makes me laugh 
  • Trusts me
  • Treats me as an equal
  • Respects my family 
  • Understands my need for time alone or with family 
  • Accepts me as I am 
Loves me not
  • Is jealous 
  • Is possessive 
  • Tries to control me 
  • Gets violent, loses temper quickly 
  • Always blames me 
  • Is sexually demanding 
  • Keeps me from seeing friends and family 
  • Makes all the decisions 
  • Embarrasses me in front of others 
  • Hits me 
  • Makes me cry 
  • Is always ‘checking up’ on me 
  • Takes my money and other things 
  • Threatens to leave me if I don’t do what I’m told 
  • Teases, bullies and puts me down 
People whose behaviours includes those on the ‘Loves me’ list, show greater emotional maturity than those displaying behaviours on the ‘Loves me not’ list. A number of those behaviours can be seen in children. Hence the expression, “Oh Grow up!”
While most of the focus has been on female victims, there is beginning to be recognition that young boys and adults need educating too, especially with the easier availability of, and exposure to, violent and extreme pornography online. Actress and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, has recently launched He for She. ( The York Charity, Jack Raine Foundation also looks at addressing these problems.
If abusers and the abused are the fruits of a problem, perhaps society needs to give greater attention to the roots.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Blame it on the Great British Bake-Off - challenging self doubt.

This is the article that was in the York Press on October 26th, 2015

Blame it on the Great British Bake-Off!

I don’t usually return to a theme in the previous month’s column, but when writing about emotional wellbeing, Nadija Hussain’s win on Bake-Off and her subsequent comments cannot be ignored.

These were her words after winning. "I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say, I can't do it. I’m never gonna say, maybe. I’m never gonna say, I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”

Last month I wrote that we need to fail before we can succeed. We do as babies and young children and then at some point we allow the voices of self-doubt to hijack us. Can you imagine how many complete baking disasters Nadija must have produced over the years? She failed on the actual programme too, in full view of millions of viewers. She had to pick herself up and start all over again.

Another recent competition winner has been Marlon James, the winner of the Man Booker prize for his challenging novel, ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings.’ His first novel had been turned down by publishers 78 times. The literary world is full of best selling authors who have been rejected numerous times. There are plenty of examples of ‘Famous Rejections’ on the Internet. They make enlightening and encouraging reading.

A relative has recently presented his work to a high profile, worldwide audience. Feedback on Twitter included, “Like the top tips. Always good to celebrate mistakes...!” “Great to see advice coming through errors.” I couldn’t agree more.

The editor of my book, ‘Are you Chasing Rainbows?’ was excellent and the book is better for her work. But, she wanted me to remove references to personal failure. She told the publisher that, “as it was a book on self-development, it shouldn’t have negative stories in it.” I despaired. We develop by learning from failure. The references were not changed.

This lack of acknowledgement of failure and mistakes is something that has crept into wellbeing via an approach called Positive Psychology. It has also led into the ubiquitous use of the word ‘issues’ instead of the word problem, which is believed to be too negative. I trained as a solutioned-focused therapist and as such, the clients and I would find possible solutions for the problem presented. We did not explore issues. A problem is more concrete than an issue. I knew it had gone too far, when somebody on TV said that their vacuum cleaner had issues.

We need to balance encouragement with realism. I’m not sure however many lessons I had, that I could be a concert pianist or speak fluent Chinese. I am suggesting that if we should persevere with something and try and try again, if it is important to us, shutting off unhelpful, negative self- dialogue.

I’ll leave you with Nadija’s last comment again.
“I can and I will.” 


Friday, 30 October 2015

Sexual consent - great teaching film.

I belong to an organisation called Soroptimist International.

The Yorkshire region have an Anti-Slavery Group. They held a Safeguarding Day conference last month. This video was shown. 

A fantastic initative. Spread it far and wide.

UK Police Launch Video Comparing Sexual Consent To Offering Tea, And It’s So Very English

For anyone who’s ever been confused about what sexual consent means, the UK’s Thames Valley Police has just launched a brilliant YouTube campaign explaining it using a quintessentially English tea analogy.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Step out of your comfort zone - I did!

This is the Wellbeing Column from the York Press on Monday, September 2015

Given the choice, I would not have decided to complete the Go Ape tree top course in Dalby Forest last month. The plans were for two grandsons to be supervised by an older friend, but after viewing the video, the friend told me that they didn’t like heights and would not do it. There was no time to find anyone else and not wanting to let the boys down, I said that I would do it. The staff were positive that I could manage the course of six rope ladders, eight wobbly walkways and six zip wires. “ 80 year olds have done it!”, they said. The highest point amongst the trees is one hundred and thirty-four feet. They assured me that I could be rescued at any time.

Going up the first rope ladder, I realised that my weakening wrists attempting to lift a heavy weight was going to be a challenge. It proved to be so and the rope ladders were unexpectedly the most difficult part of the course.

There followed two hours of one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced. Not helped by a nasty fall in the garden the night before, which I kept to myself. It was a long way out of my comfort zone and I did it!  The reward at the end, was an indescribable sense of achievement. Only I knew how hard it had been. There were times when I had wanted to stop and completion became mind over matter. As mission control told the crew of Apollo 13, ‘Failure is not an option.’ While the course had been a test of physical endurance, it was mental endurance that kept me going to the end.  What lessons were learnt?

We all meet challenges through life and our self-dialogue will strongly influence the end result. We take too much notice of negative voices telling us that we can’t do something, are a failure or not good enough.  We need to deafen them with positive voices reminding us of previous challenges, when we had not given up. Memories of driving abroad and getting stranded on a cliff, provided personal motivation. Once, in a workshop exercise, a participant gave an illustration of standing by a temperamental photo copier and not giving up. Use whatever works.

Healthy minds respond to being stretched at every age. A sense of achievement will only come by stepping out of comfort zones. Doing what we’re good at is not a challenge and it doesn’t have to be physical or big. We can surprise ourselves and others. Like children, small steps lead to greater confidence. We never stopped learning as children and learning how to fail too. Children will try again, until at some point in life, memories of past failure can hijack the present. Then we either don’t do something or give up early. It will compound those negative feelings.

The experience had been exhilarating. What next?

“Alleged ‘impossibilities’ are opportunities for our capacities to be stretched.”
Charles R Swindoll.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Being thankful and simple pleasures.

Major life events can be called life-changing in a dramatic way, but undramatic, day-to-day choices can end up being life-changing too.  (I see that the film, 'Sliding Doors' is on TV this evening. A case in point.) In my life, answering the college telephone, overhearing a customer in a local shop and changing a collection point for a charity, all changed my life immeasurably. 

This short blog is about a dramatic, life-changing life event. Two years ago today, my husband unusually complained of a stomach-ache. Twenty-fours later he was undergoing life-saving and life-changing surgery. Thank-you NHS and Mr Gatt at Scarborough hospital.

I reminded him of the anniversary today and he said that he hadn’t realised what day it was and didn’t really want to think about it, because of negative memories. That's a useful way of managing upsetting memories, "If you pick it, it won't get better." But I reminded him that it was also the anniversary of survival and how we made some positive changes to daily living.

It’s been a beautiful, autumn day today. We took the opportunity to go for a local walk, exploring a part of town that we hadn’t visited before. Before the illness, if a lovely day was in the week, we would have stayed in, working. Then, probably complained at a soggy weekend that often followed. Today, we made hay while the sun shined.

It may sound trite and perhaps schmaltzy, but we find some pleasure in every day and are thankful. I've always had Pollyanna Syndrome and know it can be trying for people sometimes, but I'm also realistic. Of course, there is plenty to complain about and to be concerned about, but there is always something to be thankful for too.  It doesn't seem to do any harm and we can also be more choosy about what we worry about and how much we worry. 

"I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened." Mark Twain

Nearly being deprived of small, simple pleasures has heightened our appreciation of them. I recall a client, who found counting three blessings before getting up in the morning, helped her manage the domestic chaos that awaited her outside the bedroom door. I know of people who chose to do something similar at the end of the day.

When I ran the practice, I often used this quote to help clients:

“…we live in the past or in the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special moment when our life will unfold itself in its full significance. And we do not notice that life is flowing like water through our fingers.”   

Father Alexander Elchaninov

Not living for the day, but in the day.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Do you see, but not observe?

This is the extended* Wellbeing Column from the York Press on August, 31st 2015.

My teenage grandsons have been staying with us, on their annual holiday.

We visited a local ‘hidden gem’ on bicycles. A wooded glen with a waterfall falling in a rocky cove. The boys loved exploring the area and on returning home asked if they could visit it again. We returned two days later. This time, the weather was even better and as we came through the trees, the North Sea appeared before us, an iridescent Mediterranean blue, matching the sky. A small yacht was moored in the cove and added to an idyllic scene. 

The boys went off to explore. Some families were picnicking and examining rock pools in the cove below the ledge, on which I remained. One father had gathered a few sticks of driftwood and was showing his children how to make a fire in a small circle of rocks. A fragrant, light pall of smoke drifted upwards to near where I was sitting on a boulder, reading the Sunday papers. The only sounds were of laughter and waves gently lapping the shore. It was warm, sunny, peaceful and pretty near perfect.

A few people came up and down the paths and an older couple appeared with a dog. The man climbed down to the pebbly beach with the dog, to take photos of the waterfall. The woman stood on the ledge and turned to me, saying with faint disgust, “I’ve come all this way for this! There aren’t even any seats.” I suggested that the boulders made comfortable seating. 

The woman moved twenty feet away, across the waterfall, to sit on a rock in the shelter of the cliff. She managed to get a signal on her mobile phone and spoke loudly about her dissatisfaction with everything. After the phone call, she made a roll-up, which she smoked with vigour. The pleasant, light breeze meant that her face was enveloped in smoke. I make no judgement on the woman’s activities, only in being bemused about what happened next. 

The man returned with the dog and the woman walked back across the rocks to join them. As they passed me on leaving the cove, she turned to me again and said, “ those people with the fire have ruined it for everyone.”

The boys arrived back full of wonder at their exploration of the glen. They sported grubby knees and wet shoes. They had taken photos of what one of them called called, “ the prettiest place I have ever seen.” I suggested exploring a different path, which they did happily and provided further delights. I thought that their beloved electronic devices couldn’t provide such memories.

I returned to my Sunday papers. In one article, someone had written about Sherlock Holmes. They wrote that Sherlock was often saying to Dr Watson, “ You see, but you don’t observe.”

Perhaps the same could be said for some of the visitors to the cove that afternoon. 


* I know that I have touched on this subject before, but we have been given the gift of five senses of smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch and we don't use them as well as we could. They can be a great resource and are free. In fact we don't realise how precious they are, until they are not there anymore or less sensitive. People can miss so much by not using them at all or properly.

I also like to add two more necessary senses for a healthy life. A sense of humour and common sense.

Do we hear, but not listen? Eat, but not taste? Touch, but not feel.


Monday, 31 August 2015

Two ways of looking at life...Worst or best day?

The next blog will an extended article that appears in the York Press this week. It will be about the different ways people look at life, based on an incident that happened earlier this month.

Is a glass half-empty or half full? Whatever the subject, there will be opposite opinions. Sometimes we can wonder whether people experienced the same event at the same time, such are differing reports. This is particularly relevant to siblings and their upbringing.

The piece below was on Facebook recently. It is a clever piece of writing that reflects how the same words can be read in two ways, with very different meanings. It is attributed to Chanie Gorkin. It may be original, it's difficult to know exactly with material published on the Internet.

But whatever the origins of the piece, it is thought-provoking and I hadn't seen anything like it before.

Worst Day Ever by Chanie Gorkin

Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don't try to convince me that
There's something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look
The world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don't last.
And it's not true that
It's all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be attained 
Only if one's surroundings are good
It's not true that good exists
I'm sure you can agree that
The reality
My attitude
It's all beyond my control
And you'll never in a million years hear me say
Today was a very good day.

Now read the passage again, but from the bottom to the top, the other way.

And see what I really feel about my day.



Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Granny says no to cold callers. Setting boundaries.

This is the *extended column, first published in the York Press on August 3rd, 2015.

Junk mail, spam email and cold calling telephone calls are in the news. Enough people must respond to these sales techniques to make it worth the investment  from companies and charities. The same can be said for the flyers that fall out of papers and magazines.  For the majority of us, the mails, flyers and calls are a waste of time and annoying. For a minority, they are damaging. Psychologically and financially.

I take care with any email about financial matters and would never write down bank details in an email.  For posted mail, I have a packet of cheap A4 size envelopes. I write ‘junk mail, remove from database’ all over the mail in red pen, put it in a large envelope and return it to the sender without a stamp. We rarely receive spam mail since I started to use this method of dealing with it. *I find this strangely satisfying. Like getting rid of rubbish at the dump.

There’s not much to be done with automated phone calls, but I try to be polite with real voices. The callers are doing a thankless job for income and are having to work with a script and targets.  Two weeks ago I had just returned home from looking after my five year old granddaughter. A sales call came through and the caller became persistent. I unexpectedly found myself saying, “ As I said to my granddaughter last week, when grannie says no, she means no!”. The caller laughed, but I repeated it firmly and said that I was going to put the phone down. Painless and amusing. Another call came through the next day and I repeated the same words. It worked and those words will now be used on all future cold callers.
I firmly stated boundaries and kept to what I said. It worked with my granddaughter too. 

What about our personal boundary setting? Can we say no to ourselves?  An anti-drugs campaign the 1980s centred around ‘Just say no!’ Simple? No, it isn’t. We don’t want to disappoint, be thought uncaring, start a row, lose a friend or go without. 

* At these times, we can be manipulated and need to watch out for ourselves. Saying yes to too much can leave us mentally and physically exhausted, but the person asking us doesn't really care, as they have their own reasons for their behaviour.

 But when my husband was seriously ill, it became easy to say no to all requests and nobody tried to dissuade me. Though in a highly stressful situation, I couldn’t say no to chocolate and red wine. I deserved it, didn’t I? That’s the other side of self-dialogue. A justifying voice, full of excuses, intrudes, trying to say yes, when we want to say no.

* People would rather blame anything and everybody if they have taken an action, which they then come to regret. But in not taking responsibility, we can lose control of a situation. As children, saying no to bedtime, green veg and sharing toys comes easily, but perhaps it one of the few childish behaviours we should learn to keep at times?

A celebrity of the moment is model and actress Cara Delevingne. She was quoted in a recent newspaper interview saying, “ I love saying no. Before I didn’t and it took a huge toll on my health and happiness.”  It sounds as if she is able to draw her own boundaries in a world full of temptations. I hope she succeeds in a challenging environment.


Friday, 31 July 2015

The payback from volunteering.

In recent weeks, the York Press has featured articles on volunteering. Maxine Gordon wrote about opportunities in Pickering and Malton. York Cares was featured in the business pages.

I read a small item about York Hospital Trust asking for volunteers. I thought it was only the WRVS who had volunteers in hospitals, but not so. There are three hundred volunteers spread around YHT hospitals, doing a variety of work. Experiencing a personal ‘lightbulb’ moment, an application form was submitted.

This reminded me of a train journey in Spring 2011. I was returning to York from Gateshead, after attending an interview to be a London 2012 Games Maker.  The Games Makers initiative was not widely known at that stage and the couple sitting next to me were not aware of the volunteer army planned for London 2012. A goodie bag attracted their interest.

The man’s reaction was a surprise. It was one of incredulity. He was a business man in his forties and could not believe that there were people who were willing to work at London 2012, without being paid. He thought it was some sort of Government scam. I explained that having been impressed with the volunteers at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, I wanted to volunteer at London 2012 and didn’t mind what I did or where. 

As it turned out, my time was spent at Eton Dorney Rowing Lake, where I enjoyed four of the most extraordinary weeks of my life. By the end of London 2012, most people had heard of the Games Makers and were aware of our purple and pink uniform. People were asking to how to become one. Too late. 

After The Games, I thought about that man on the train and wondered if he remembered our conversation. Did he now understood the nature of volunteering?  Did he visit an event and see the Games Makers working? Though he wasn’t alone, there were many sceptical people. A GP told me that one his colleagues couldn’t understand why he wanted to work for no pay in his holidays. This was until the second week and then he’d been in touch. The penny had dropped.

My personal motivation is to give something back to the hospital that saved my husband’s life. While not having everything I want, I am fortunate to have everything I need and believe that most of us can help in the community in some way and not ask for a monetary reward.

There are numerous opportunities for volunteering, if you look for them.  Age is no limit. Working in historical houses, in gardens, the countryside, in transport, sport, cooking, sewing, reading, writing, helping people of all ages or working with animals. It’s limitless. Visit the library, read the local papers, look at cards in shop windows. This is a good place to start: 

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill


Monday, 6 July 2015

Two consecutive, contrasting days: Memories of 07/07/05

I’ve often wanted to write the memories down, but never have. It’s not only the 10th anniversary that has bought the memories to the forefront, but the events in Tunisia.

Two consecutive days. The juxtaposition of such joy and elation with such misery and despair. The holidaymakers in Tunisia may well feel the same. July 6th and 7th 2005. Was there ever such a time in the national consciousness, especially in London and the South-East, when there were two such consecutive days? It’s that contrast that I mostly remember.

Those two days I wasn’t in London or anywhere near. Adrian and I were looking after two grandsons from Belfast, aged 6 and 3. We were staying in a favourite holiday location. Self-catering on a farm in Dumfries and Galloway, just outside Kircudbright.

Tuesday, July 6th had seen us at the excellent visitor attraction, Cream O’Galloway. The announcement was due to be made about the Olympics 2012 and I was hoping for a London vote. Not only did I want to take the boys, but to be a volunteer too. I listened on the small radio I’d taken with me and heard the news when it was announced. I have film of the boys in the adventure playground and I’m saying that I’ve just heard the news that the vote came for London and that they would go to some of the events. (They did attend and I was a Games Maker.)

Back in the farmhouse, we watched scenes of joy from London on TV. Such happiness. 

Wednesday, July 7th and it was another beautiful day. A day for the beach. The tiny village of Rockcliffe provides a delightful beach, bay and tea shop. A little off the beaten track, so not over populated. It was a perfect bucket and spades day and with the Olympic news, it felt a ‘good to be alive day’. A happy day.  A perfect day. There was no mobile signal. We didn't put the car radio on.

We returned to the house about 5pm. There was a text message from my daughter.

“I have spoken to Grandpop and he says Joe is okay.”

What did that mean? Why wouldn’t my son, Joe, be okay? And why would Katie in Belfast be in contact with my father who lived in London? What had it got to do with them?

I immediately realised that there must have been an incident of some sort and that it would be national news.  They thought I would have heard the news, whatever it was. Perhaps around where Joe could have been? On his way from Hammersmith to the BBC. With trepidation, I immediately went into the sitting room and put on the TV. 

I wanted to watch everything, but it wasn’t fair on the two small boys, so had to wait until after their bedtime. The next day, I tried to watch minimal TV, but even then the six-year old said, “Are those people still sad?”. I turned the TV off.

Joe had been on an, maybe the, Edgware Road train, but, unusually, had got off at an earlier stop to pay a bill. I’ve met several people who were almost involved. Missed the train, in the third taxi behind the bus, had just turned the corner…

But the images and feelings that remain are of enjoying a perfect day of pure innocence in one part of the UK, while death and evil visited another.

24 hours after most of London was celebrating, the joyous mood and lives had been smashed to pieces. 

My thoughts return to Tunisia.


I wrote the above yesterday. Today, at 11.15am I was in a car and when I put on the radio, it was BBC 5 Live coming from St Paul's Cathedral. I stopped and listened to the rest of the service and the chat afterwards. I cried.

I felt so sad, but my memory matches to the emotions felt and subsequent thoughts were numerous.

1. I am proud to be a Londoner. The attack was on my city and its people. A wonderful, cosmopolitan city. 
2. I travel through Kings Cross and Edgware Road nearly every month. I know those streets and tube lines.
3. I am a news junkie and yet hearing so much from ten years ago, made me realise how much I missed by just not being aware of what was going on.
4. I walked through Tavistock Square last week. It was a sunny, hot afternoon. The small park was full of happy people and innocent children running through the fountains.
5. I had forgotten until last night, that five years ago today was my father's funeral, whose life was complex and intrusive into my own for over 60 years. 

But mainly and overwhelmingly, I feel almost haunted by that beautiful, happy, perfect day on the beach in Rockcliffe. I am grieving. Grieving for the loss of innocence and the loss of ten more years of life. 

But at least I've had a life in those ten years.