22/07/14 Joint Enterprise – are we all culpable?

The law of Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose came under close scrutiny in a recent TV crime drama by Jimmy McGovern.

Don’t worry, just because I buggered my knee, I haven’t decided to try my hand at TV reviews…but have you seen…?

In this one-off story he told the tale of a young man who drove some wayward mates to get a pizza – one of them killed a guy in the takeaway – they all ran back to the car where the driver was waiting to return home with some tasty goodies.

Instead of the delicious aroma of Italy he was met with alarmed shouts of, ‘Drive, drive, drive!!!’

Joint enterprise is a 300 year old law that was brought about to stop people supporting duellists, er, duelling…

In recent years this crime of association has been used in a large number of murders where either it wasn’t completely clear as to who did what to whom and when – but it sure as hell was one of you – which was incredibly useful in the trial of the killers of Stephen Lawrence; or one where the accused could have reasonably known that his friend, Tam the Bam, was likely to commit crime ‘x’ in that particular situation.

Like so many in his predicament, the driver of the takeaway, now getaway, car was convicted of manslaughter by association.

From a recent freedom of information request it was found that around 17.7% of all homicide charges and 44% of homicide prosecutions where there were 2 or more defendants, had relied on the joint enterprise doctrine.

Concerns have been raised by many of those effected by this law from all it’s angles – from lawyers to the incarcerated – suggesting that the law is confusing – is used inconsistently – that it requires a greatly reduced burden of proof to stick someone in prison for joint enterprise than for the original crime, be that assault, manslaughter or murder – and that young, working class males from housing estates are over represented in the figures.

Damian Green, the justice minister, has said this law is fine and it isn’t going to be changed any time soon… Yes, I am paraphrasing there…

But what about you? What about me? What about more middle class, white collar crime?

Bankers?

Andy Coulson?

Tony Blair and Iraq?

Iain Duncan Smith?

Cases where you find yourself saying,

‘I always knew he was dodgy…’

‘Yeah, he grabbed my arse…’

Cases where you know prejudice has taken place?

Where someone didn’t get employed because…well, you’d followed the anti discriminatory guidelines…but you knew through a friend that James was the right man for the job – he just had a bad interview…sure,she had all the experience and the qualifications, but you had a gut feeling that…or, I know we don’t discriminate on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious belief, but…

And that’s a great big BUT.

People discriminate, abuse and get up to all kinds of shit openly, under the gaze of others.

Bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Bad things happen when YOU do nothing.

Sure, justify it to yourself, what can I do? I’m too busy…these people should take a chill-pill…it’s not that bad…

It’ll fuck up my career if I blow the whistle.

Hell, we even discriminate against ourselves – I feel stressed/ mental/ ill (insert anything you can imagine here) but if I show any kind of weakness I’m fucked…

We watch colleagues and friends struggle and we do nothing.

Social workers, doctors, nurses, lawyers…name any profession…we see austerity cuts come in and we’re complicit with them – through omission – we’re worried about our jobs, our potential for promotion…we don’t want to rock the boat…my job’s hard enough without…Shit, I’m doing my best here!

I don’t vote because they’re all wankers…

Why not lobby?

Your MP’s and councillors all have to have surgeries where we, the great unwashed, can get our greasy paws on them…? Voting really is the least of it.

I don’t watch the news because it’s so depressing/ right wing/ left wing biased/ boring…

We live in the age information – through a multitude of screen based devices the world, or representations of it dribble in through our eyes and ears 24/7.

There are so many alternatives/ slants/ ways of looking at the same situation.

Is this all joint enterprise? Are we all responsible for our lot?
Do we share the common purpose of those who tell us they’re leading the way?

If so, why aren’t we doing something about it?

As Gandhi seemingly never said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’

It’s a long story, but well worth the read here

But you get the idea…

Otherwise we’re all guilty.

Walk a mile

Chris

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13/07/14 A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. Winston Churchill.

Today, I woke up to one of the most venomous and malicious attacks on folk with mental health problems I think I’ve ever read.

So, congratulations to Tim Ross at the Daily Telegraph for that

It’s quite a short piece, so let’s have a GCSE in media studies walk through…

Tories discuss stripping benefits claimants who refuse treatment for depression’

Well, that’s got your attention, hasn’t it? Refusing treatment? How dare they…?

Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.’

Some people,who may or may not be in government, are too afraid to put their names to the unmitigated balderdash that follows…

“Huge” being any number you can think of that isn’t “small” …which actually means…

We don’t have any real figures to back this up, but that’s never stopped us in the past.

‘Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression, under radical plans being drawn up by ministers.’

Ok, here our courageous hack, Tim, realises that the lack of real figures detracts somewhat from his otherwise perfect piece – so he inserts a vague figure for those Telegraph readers who can’t imagine ‘Huge’.

He also introduces us to the notion that these people don’t want to get better.

Even more imaginatively he’s suggesting that there’s more than enough treatment to go round.

‘Existing welfare rules mean it is not possible to require claimants to have treatment, such as therapy or counselling, as a condition of receiving sickness benefits.’

Yep, there’s millions of scrounging bastards collecting benefits off the back of hard working tax payers…

‘Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.’

Er…but these, er ministers refuse to have their names mentioned in this made up, er, well researched, piece of seamless prose…

‘Huge’ remains, like, you know, a really massive number. We can’t give you the actual figures because of, er, confidentiality.

‘The first moves towards potential reform are expected in a series of pilot schemes to be launched within weeks.’

They’re going to try out some ill conceived draconian measure in some labour strongholds – hopefully Scotland – before they manage to bugger off.

The pilots, jointly designed by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, will test ways of combining treatment for mental health problems with support to find work.’

Arbeit macht frei.

‘According to the government, 46 per cent of benefit claimants receiving Employment and Support Allowance, the main benefit for ill and disabled people, have mental health problems.’

According to someone I’ve never spoken to/ doesn’t exist/ still refuses to put their name to this hateful piece of fiction, a number of folk – shit, how do I make this sound believable? Er, 46 sounds like it hasn’t been made up…let’s go for that…

‘This means that the proposal to enforce treatment could apply to an estimated 260,000 claimants, who receive up to £101 per week each in ESA.’

We don’t have any actual figures, but I’m sure you’ll agree, 260 thousand is a really huge number…unless ,of course, you’re wondering how many bicycles there are in Beijing…

‘Estimates based on government figures suggest the state spends up to £1.4 billion a year – more than £3.5 million per day – on ESA for these claimants with mental health issues.’

So, based on the made up figures that nobody is willing to put their name to, these scrounging bastards are robbing you blind.

‘The reforms however, would apply only to those claimants judged to be capable of some work in future.’

Shit, this sounds harsh even by our standards – quick, let’s get a bit feely-touchy before we lose all our voters…

Small question – er, how would they measure this? ATOS? Son of ATOS?

‘Those who are judged to be incapable of work due to the severity of their conditions would not be targeted under the plans.’

WHAT???? Even by the government’s own statistics – around 0.5% of disability benefits are claimed fraudulently.

‘Tory ministers hope to persuade senior Liberal Democrats to back the idea of mandating treatment for benefit claimants with common mental health problems.’

The Liberal Democrats think this idea is just more hateful bollocks.

‘The proposal will raise ethical questions about whether the state should have the power to force patients to undergo treatment.’

I wonder if we can get away with this…hold on, don’t we already have mental health legislation that forces people with mental health problems to undergo treatment? Er…don’t ask me, I’m making this up…

‘It could lead to a fresh row with campaigners and charities who have claimed that the coalition’s welfare reforms already target vulnerable people with poor mental and physical health.’

I think that makes this story sound a bit more balanced…So, which campaigners and organisations? Er…I dunno…I know they’re a bunch of left wing moaning hippies though.

‘Conservatives could include the proposal for mandatory treatments in the party manifesto next year as part of the next phase of reforms to the welfare state.’

If we’re voted in for a second term that’ll give us Carte Blanche to blame those who are sick, vulnerable, disabled…everyone apart from Our Friends, the Bankers, (soon to be a Ladybird book near you) for this financial car crash we find ourselves in…

‘A senior government source said “a huge number” of claimants on ESA who cannot work have treatable mental health issues such as “depression and anxiety”.’

Do you think if I say “Huge” enough times people will start to believe it? This information comes from the same bloke I met in the pub the other night…

But, er, won’t this alert the public to the fact that only 13% of the NHS budget goes towards mental ill health; that over 6000 people take their own lives each year in the UK – an increase of 1000 following the tight squeeze of austerity; that people with mental health problems, unlike people with physical maladies, don’t have a guaranteed waiting time of 18 weeks between diagnosis and the beginning of treatment; that there are thousands of people with medically diagnosed mental health problems who have received no treatment whatsoever for their condition because of shortages and further cuts in services…?

Look, if we can blame the poor for being poor, then it’s going to be a pretty easy task to blame the mad for being mad – fish in a barrel…

‘ “We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment,” the source said.’

Er…if all these conditions are treatable, doesn’t that make it particularly poor that these therapies aren’t being offered to the people who suffer from these maladies?

Look – the treatments are there, people just need to search for them…

Isn’t that what you said about employment when there are 2 million too few jobs?

I think you answered your own question there – if people will buy the worklessness argument, they’ll buy anything.

‘ “But there are loads of people who claim ESA who undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.’

Ditto.

‘ “These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink.’

Er…who exactly are you quoting here?

And isn’t ‘rethink’ the name of a mental health organisation…?

Don’t you see that’s part of the plan?

People will think they’re endorsing our, er, product…

“At some point something has to be done. Right now it’s an open ended contract.” ‘

But doesn’t that just continue to pedal the myth that disability benefits are just handed out without any proof and without any time limit ?

Will you be quiet, I’m on a roll here…

The source suggested that successful treatments could reduce the numbers of people with mental health issues claiming the benefits by up to 90 per cent.’

90 PERCENT???!!!What wonder treatment is this? And why haven’t people been receiving it up until now?

I, er, hmmm…confidentiality?

‘Benefit claimants receiving ESA, are typically paid up to £101 per week if they are deemed potentially capable of work and are placed in the so-called “work-related activity group” of welfare recipients.

If they fail to abide by conditions such attending work-focused interviews, their ESA payments can be reduced as a sanction. No conditions are currently applied requiring claimants to undergo treatment for health problems.’

But there’s a massive shortage in appropriate treatments for people with mental health problems…

Sorry, I meant ‘Huge’.

‘One trial began last month, looking at combining “talking therapies” with employment support. Four jobcentres are taking part.

The intention of the scheme is to give benefit claimants early access to experts who can help them prepare for work while they are receiving treatment for mental health issues.’

Hold on, is this the same scheme that was piloted by the last incumbents of Downing Street in 2009

Whatever became of that idea?

Three further trials being launched this summer are intended to test different ways of linking mental health services with support for benefit claimants seeking work.

One of these schemes is designed to analyse effectiveness of “group work” to help build the “resilience” of individuals who are out of work and suffering with poor mental health.’

Er…isn’t this the same government that closed down most of Remploy – an organisation that supported people with a variety of disabilities to work; the same government who had to change the law in order to close down the Independent Living Scheme – a fund that, again, supported people with disabilities and/ or mental health problems to live full lives – full lives that included employment?

The same government quoted by the BBC

‘The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.’

Why let a few facts get in the way of…

‘An other trial will see whether better results can be achieved by hiring specialist private organisations outside the NHS and welfare system to take control of providing a combination of psychological and employment support to claimants.’

We are not privatising the NHS.

‘A final pilot scheme will assess the effectiveness of offering online tests and therapies at improving individuals’ health and job prospects.’

This really is as shit as it sounds.

‘Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health minister, said mandating mental health treatment for benefit claimaints would not work and was “not a sensible idea”.

“The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won’t work,” he said. “It is not a question of whether tough love is a good concept.

“You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”‘

A leading government minister suggests that this whole idea is a pile of shite…

Walk a mile

Chris

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04/07/14 A great day to bury bad news?

Rolf Harris?

Andy Coulson?

The launch of a great big aircraft carrier at Rosyth?

A stabbing of a teacher in France?

The funeral of a Palestinian teenager – possibly the victim of an Israeli revenge attack?

Oh, and pesky old British Gas have set up a £1 million compensation fund for mis-selling to customers?

By the way…mumble…look over there, you don’t see one of THOSE every day…the er Government’s, well, I mean, the Department for Work and Pensions’ workfare scheme, where people on benefits get paid as little as £1.60 an hour so they don’t get ‘something for nothing’, has been found, er, wanting…

‘The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.’
…was reported on the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ part of the BBC News today

Paul Heron, of Public Interest Lawyers has been fighting the corner of the victims of workfare…

‘About £130m was owed to people who had fallen foul of the retrospective legislation, he said, ranging from four weeks’ benefit, about £250, to several thousand pounds.’

£130 million? That’s a bit more than British Gas’s misdemeanour…

The government are appealing – by which I don’t mean I find them attractive.

In other news…

We are the 6th wealthiest country in the world…

Less than 0.5% of disability benefits are claimed fraudulently…

I haven’t met ANYONE…by which I mean a single person who is happy to live out their lives of worklessness on £58 per week.

And I’ve met quite a few folk as a social worker and a wandering loon.

People sanctioned by the department of work and pensions for all kinds of nonsense can lose their benefits for anything between a week and 3 years.

People with mental health problems are hugely over-represented in the sanctioned group.

FOOD BANKS!!!

And what on earth are we doing getting anywhere near falling foul of human rights legislation?

This isn’t tough love!

Yes, I know I’m ranting…

Walk a Mile

Chris

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03/07/14 The Battle of Westminster Abbey or, surely there must be some mistake?

On Saturday the 30th of June 2014, a crack group of 60 (give or take) disabled folk attempted to protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund by occupying some of the grounds around Westminster Abbey.

According to reports

and

and

this occupation was quashed by a ‘disproportionate response’ by the police who provided over 200 officers to kettle and cajole this terrifying group of fugitives from the grounds of the Abbey.

Again, according to the reports above, the Dean of Westminster refused to engage with the campaigners who presented staff at the Abbey with a letter that explained their intention to protest peacefully.

Since this is private land, the Dean – the head honcho – could have asked the police to withdraw at any stage.

Again, according to the reports above, he didn’t.

I thought that instead of blogging in the usual stylie, I’d write a message to the Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very Reverend John Hall in an attempt to clear things up.

The Very Reverend John Hall the Dean of Westminster Abbey,
Westminster Abbey,
20 Deans Yard,
London,
SW1P 3PA

Dear Reverend Hall,

I’m writing to you following the recent hoo-har between the good people from DPAC and the folk at Westminster Abbey.

From what I’ve read, it would appear that approximately 60 people with disabilities attempted to occupy some of the land around your beautiful building in the hope of raising awareness of the impending closure of the independent living fund.

To quote from your website, your aim is…”To serve pilgrims and all other visitors and to maintain a tradition of hospitality”

However, instead of being met with hospitality, these protesters were met with around 200 police officers who kettled and removed them from the Abbey grounds.

I wouldn’t pretend to be a religious man. That said, I am a man of faith.

In April 2011 I began a pilgrimage. I left Edinburgh on foot with the aim to circumnavigate our beautiful island, travelling anti clockwise, with no money, driven by the belief that the people of the UK would give me hospitality and would be trusting and trustworthy to help me on my way.

I have a severe and enduring mental health problem that curtails my ramblings, a mental health problem that has been the butt of prejudice from professionals, carers, the media and sufferers alike.

Pretty poor odds, I’m sure you’d agree – but every day I have been proven right that people are wonderful.

I looked at your story and wondered what could cause such a response to a group of people who were pilgrims in their own way, just trying to get their message across.

I was a social worker for nearly 20 years in Scotland. In that role I learned to rely heavily on the Independent Living Fund. This is – soon to be was – an organisation who financially supplemented care packages for people with disabilities to enable them to be more in charge of their lives, allowing them access to independence, education, employment, fun and relationships and a non-institutional life.

Last year DPAC and others fought and overturned the government’s decision to close this valuable fund.

The government changed the law which has allowed them to close the fund, with the aim to transfer that budget to local authorities.

Nothing much wrong with that I hear you cry. Unfortunately local authorities have had their budgets hacked to the bone – and the money given from the closure of the ILF will not be ring fenced.

This means that the lives of thousands of people with disabilities will be deprived of this great service.

This is not a political issue. A cross party parliamentary committee agreed that this fund should not close – unfortunately their voices along with those of the service users, their carers and their families are left unheard.

Please take some time to listen John McDonnel speaking eloquently to the house
here

These aren’t scary people, and yet their plight was met with fear and suspicion.

What would Jesus have done?

I won’t bang on about what I think he would have or wouldn’t have done. I’ll leave that to the more knowledgeable theologians amongst you.

That said, I know he was fond of a parable to get his message across – so, please indulge me with this real life story of love.

I was trundling towards Crimond, a village on the east coast of Scotland, lugging my 60 pound rucksack in the sun.

A man drew up in his car next to me and said, ‘I’m going to give you a lift,’

I explained that I was walking around the edge of the UK to highlight the experience of people with a mental health problem – who often feel on the edge – with no money, just a faith that the people of the UK would be fabulous.

He told me he lived in Crimond, that it was a long way up that hill, and maybe he’d see me there.

I wandered into the village about 3 hours later to find him standing on the postage stamp of a village green with a smile on his face.

‘What will you do now?’ he asked

I explained that sometimes I stayed with folk who followed me on the internet, sometimes, if I’d had donations, I’d stay in a B&B, or, failing that, I’d stick my tent up…

He told me I couldn’t stay with him – but I could put my tent up in his garden and he’d make me something for tea.

I didn’t need to be told twice, erecting my tent in record time, I found myself tucking into fish fingers and chips, chatting to this complete stranger like we were old friends.

All too soon it was time for bed, and I dozed off listening to the owl that lived at the end if his garden.

I was awoken by a gentle knock on the side of my tent, this man, Kenny, had made me tea and toast for breakfast before he went off to work.

Hit and run kindness.

It was while I was bathing in the generosity of people that I realised I wasn’t in Kenny’s garden.

I was in a communal drying area. I also noticed that I was nowhere near his door – but I’d pitched my tent about 5 feet away from the entrance to his neighbours house.

While I was thinking about making good my getaway as quickly as possible, his neighbour, a woman in her mid ’60′s opened her door.

Slightly panicked, wondering what on earth she must be thinking, I began to babble, explaining that Kenny had allowed me to camp there and I hadn’t realised how close I was to her house, amongst other things.

She politely asked me what I was talking about – which caused me to babble more.

She held her hand up and said, ‘I’m not interested in any of that. I’ve run you a bath, I was wondering if you wanted any bubbles in it…?’

‘Bubbles would be fine,’ I whispered.

I asked her what made her run a bath for a complete stranger who looks more than a little like a bouncer who had set up camp in her garden.

She told me that she’d camped before – and the thing she missed the most was a bath. She thought, quite rightfully, that I’d be no different.

I chatted with her for a couple of hours, finding out that she’d been the carer for a friend if hers who’d died recently.

We talked about how sad and hard that must have been for her.

She told me she was finished with caring for folk – she was going to get herself a job in her local supermarket filling shelves.

I had to laugh. I reminded her that she’d just run a bath for a complete stranger – kindness and compassion coursed through her veins.

We hugged – to be honest I was reluctant to let this lovely woman go – I felt we were both so much richer for our meeting.

Which brings me back to you. I thought that being the Dean of Westminster Abbey, a lifelong man of the cloth, would make you into some kind if kindness ninja.

A man whose actions would be borne out of love and faith – not mistrust and fear.

This was a great opportunity for you and the people of DPAC to connect and share stories.

Please remember,

‘All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.’

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Please seize this opportunity.

Walk a mile in my shoes

Yours sincerely

Chris Young

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25/06/14 Now we are 6, er 9, ok, 49…

Ella is a patient soul. She has to be really…

She knows that I can be a stubborn b… blighter and that I can, on occasion, make the wrong choice…

We still laugh when we remember how I did my back in a few years ago…and still insisted that I was going to drive up to Edinburgh…until the doctor came round and asked the somewhat obvious question, ‘If you can’t get out of bed, how are you planning on driving a car?’

I’ve loved walking over the past couple of weeks – walk a mile has been so…walkamiley…the weather, the people, the scenery have been amazing.

So when I jarred my knee on a downy hill bit a few days ago and my shoulder came out in sympathy I knew everything would be fine in a couple of days…

I mean, at my youthful age everything just springs back…

The fact that I can’t pick my rucksack up with my right hand and I whimper like Luis Suarez after he’s sunk his teeth (allegedly) into an Italian defender every time I walk on the stairs is neither here nor there…

So, good to go then…

Ella has indulged me with that withering look that says, ‘Yes, of course…DEAR!’…that long-suffering, eyes peering through the fingers, stare of incredulity just waiting for me to say…

‘Er, I don’t think I’ll be able to start back tomorrow…’

I’ve conceded that not all the painkillers I’ve been taking could be faulty.

So I’m going to wait a bit.

Just to be clear, I’m still an arse.

I’ll be hobbling back into action (that’s my normal gait) as soon as I can…without being stupid…possibly…

Walk a mile

Chris

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17/06/14 As seen in Criminal Minds or, whoops, I did it again.

It was hot. I was sweating like a hot thing placed in a hot place.

John the farmer spotted my discomfort.

‘Hi there…’

For those of you seasoned walk a milers – this was the same ‘Hi there…’ given to me by Donnie Sutherland, by Noel McCulloch, by Mrs McIntosh of Avoch to name but a very few of the folk who’ve fixed me with their friendly auras.

This ‘Hi there,’ meant ‘You’re coming into my home and you’re going to tell me what you’re doing and I’m going to look after you for a bit…’

‘D’you want a cup of tea?’

I remember reading somewhere that cold drinks cause your body to close it’s pores because it’s reacting to the cold – as such having the opposite of the desired effect – hot drinks, on the other hand…

Listen – YOU try being inside my head for a while – if I have to listen to it, so do you…

I happily accepted the tea whilst explaining a little about what I was up to and hearing a bit about the lot of a farmer…and that it was too hot to do anything.

John told me that subsidies from government and Europe were mysterious entities.

Mysterious in that the powers that be were constantly shifting the goalposts.

They’d award them for cattle – then only breeding cattle – then dairy herds – then land…

My head was spinning – it made me think of the Monty python sketch about where first years should hang up their coats…

We had the where are you planning to stop for the day conversation. I said soon given that I might evaporate. I said I might revert to my walking at dawn to avoid the heat policy to ensure I could knock some miles off.

John said I could stay in his static caravan to set me up for my transition to stupidly early mornings.

Yes, yes, yes…I tried not to sound over keen, but YES!

He told me that he, his sons and daughter have something to eat at about 6.30 and that I was welcome to join them.

I had the best shower of my entire life and caught up with a few blogs – I might have fallen asleep too.

John came round at about 6.30 – said supper would be in about 20 minutes – and then vanished – I never saw him again.

One of his son’s girlfriends…er, the girlfriend of one of his sons, Helen, came over with a great big plate of carbohydrates and a bunch of questions.

I talked about my crispy arms and she told me how they’d been doing something with the wool with her back to the sun causing similar crunchiness.

She asked me about my mental malady.

I said I had borderline personality disorder…

She’d never heard of it – no worries, not many people have.

‘Have you ever seen Criminal Minds?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I love Criminal Minds,’ she smiled

‘It’s usually me whodunnit…’ I grinned.

There, I’d done it again.

Making light of it? Scaring people with it? Using irony?

Being a bit of an arse with it is what I was doing.

I think I retrieved the situation by describing some of the emotional effect it has, that, as a condition it’s hugely over-represented in male prisoners, and that my particular pain in the arse was dissociation.

First impressions last, Christopher – save the dodgy gags until later.

If ever.

Being the star in every episode of Criminal Minds is not a unique selling point.

I’m writing it out in my best handwriting, 1000 times.

Also, wonderfully entertaining Criminal Minds maybe, it isn’t a good reference point for learning about people with mental maladies.

I don’t think I was too scary, Helen’s joined up to the group.

Probably just to make sure I leave the area.

Walk a mile

Chris

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16/06/14 On the Beach

Just about everyone I’ve spoken to on the Llynn Peninsula from the local MP to folk I met at the campsite have told me, in no uncertain terms, that I must visit the pub on the beach, Ty Coch.

I am nothing if not obedient. A sunny day, the promise of a lager shandy and a sarni, a pub on the beach…

Could it possibly live up to my expectations?

Things look promising as one wanders across the golf course that’s on the way to this pub of pubs, meeting people with big easy grins on their faces…a bit of banter, a bit of chat…

‘Is it really THAT good?’

‘Go and see…’ was the almost universal response.

I arrived on the beach, and I defy anyone not to have the same response as me.

I laughed.

It is ludicrously beautiful, from the traditional looking bar itself exuding soft reggae tones, to the beautiful blue sea lapping the sandy shore of this most exquisite of bays, with a variety of boats, placed seemingly for decoration like baubles on a Christmas tree.

Everyone is smiling.

I take one step onto the beach and I’m chatting to Pat and Paul, a couple from Walsall.

We all seemed to have the urge – the need to share this with someone – is it really this beautiful?

Well, yes it is.

We’re chatting freely – Pat tells me she’s had depression on and off for most of her life – treated through long term psychotherapy and medication.

Paul is the first to say he didn’t really understand mental ill health, but over their 40 odd years together he’s been keen to learn.

In amongst all the talk – one thing stood out for me.

At one point, Pat had been asked how she would feel if she woke up tomorrow to find she no longer had depression.

Terrified – was her response.

Surprising?

This was something that Paul had struggled with. He’d attended a number of therapy sessions with Pat such was his motivation to get his head round it.

A mental health problem is a pain in the arse – why wouldn’t you want to be rid of it?

It Pat’s case – and in mine to some extent – yes, it’s a pain in the arse – but it’s a life long familiar pain in the arse.

It’s my pain in the arse – it’s part of me.

It’s not the same as that oft quoted attack on your person with a mental malady – YOU DON’T WANT TO GET BETTER!

It’s like being told you could be better if you had a sizeable chunk of you lopped off.

They went off while I smiled a bit more at the whole situation.

I took a couple more steps and met Louise and her family – she has a physical disability to the point that she is unable to propel/ control her wheelchair.

This wheelchair had big floaty tyres that enabled them to safely pile into the sea together – everyone was having a hoot.

In all my years as a social worker I’d never seen the like.

It was American, of course. Not NHS/ social work issue.

We chatted a bit later – Louise has another, very heavy attendant propelled wheelchair provided by social services.

For those of you who’ve encountered these leviathans you’ll know they aren’t the easiest things to get up a hill.

Louise’s dad, a practical sort, attached an electric motor to it to make those most difficult hills flatter.

Social services response?

The wheelchair is on loan from social services so Mr Louise’s Dad isn’t authorised to make alterations to it.

They threatened to take him to court.

Hmm….

Anyway, I finally made my way up the few steps into the bar – Stewart, the king of this particular castle, said, ‘You can’t bring prams in…oh, it’s not a pram, oh, this is Hubert? What does Hubert want to drink?’

…and promptly gave me a pint of the sacred lager shandy, gratis, on the house. He was busy, but promised to catch up with me later.

I had some cheese and onion sarnies – there is no better food – and chatted to some of the other punters filling the rest of my time staring gormlessly out the window.

It got to the point where it looked like Stewart – sporting a most impressive moustache and beard combo – wasn’t going to find that chat gap, so I started on my way…

And was intercepted – by er, Stewart who was very interested in the ramble.

Being something of an expert on accents, I concluded that he was from one of the villages in Northamptonshire – probably near Kettering…

‘I was born here on the beach,’ he told me, ‘I’ve lived here all my life. My mum took the pub over from my dad, and I took the pub over from her…’

I should have a TV programme, such is the prowess of my ability to spot regional accents.

All too soon it was time to go… I said something along the lines of, ‘Hubert isn’t going to pull himself…’

(Which, in retrospect, is something I’ll never say again)

…and Stewart intercepted by thrusting £40 into my hand saying, ‘Get yourself another shandy up the road…’

Lordy!

My advice to you, dear walk a miler, stop what you’re doing NOW.

Say to anyone who might miss you for the next few days, ‘I may be gone for some time,’ and go to Ty Coch.

It really is that good.

Walk a mile

Chris

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