Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Favourite Things

When we’re having a really bad patch, as I currently am, it’s easy to concentrate on the negatives so I thought I’d do a post on a few of the things which make my life easier, help me through the days and which I love, as a reminder that I still have much to be thankful for.

  • My laptop and the internet.  We in developed countries take these things for granted but there are still millions of people in the world who don’t have access to the world wide web or a home computer.  I would be totally lost without mine, as not only do I use it to connect with other people and to shop for just about everything, including my weekly groceries, I also use it for my photography.
  • Speaking of which, my photography keeps me sane, gives me purpose, and is a great distractor.  There are days when it really is a mental health lifesaver.
  • My little car.  Living in a rural area with no public transport my car is my lifeline.  It’s a Toyota Yaris Hybrid Bi-tone, with tinted rear windows, black alloys and red & black interior.  It’s gorgeous, and on top of being easy to drive as it’s automatic I’m also doing my little bit to help the environment.
  • My mobility scooter.  Although I pay someone to walk my dog 5 mornings a week, I can’t afford afternoons and weekends, so I take him out on my mobility scooter.  I can go miles on it, which is great exercise for Bertie, and as an added bonus we meet all sorts of people on our travels who we stop and chat to which helps with isolation.  My scooter was bought 3rd hand from a local dealer and can cope with the rugged terrain and lack of pavements we have here in the countryside, as well as looking quite cool as the design is based on a Harley Davidson tryke!
  • The telly.  It’s easy to take TVs for granted but I swear I’d totally lose my shit without mine.  It passes the time, is a great distractor and keeps me company – I often have the picture on but the sound down, just so I feel less alone.
  • My electric heat pad.  Miles better than using a hot water bottle, which is either boiling or freezing, this heat pad gets toasty warm when you lean on it but not too hot that I’m concerned if I fall asleep!  I use it for back and period pain, as well as placing it on my pillow to lie my head on during a migraine – it really does help.
  • My red pepper sauce.  90% of recipes for non-meat eaters contain sodding tinned tomatoes and I’d be even more limited in what to cook than I already am without my red pepper sauce as a substitute.  I batch cook then freeze in individual jars.
  • My steam cleaner.  I recently bought a steam mop, which converts to a hand held cleaner and I love it.  It cleans all my laminate and wooden floors like a breeze and I can also steam clean my leather couch, the dog’s bed, my wooden stairs, my mattress and all manner of other things without any chemicals whatsoever.  You bung some tap water in, wait for 30 seconds, then off you go.  I so wish I’d bought one sooner!
  • The last couple of years, my declining hormones have made my skin stupendously dry and no amount of moisturizer was helping.  My bestie suggested face oil but I was sceptical, thinking it would make my skin greasy and spotty, however I was desperate so decided to try some Argan Oil and it’s made the world of difference.  It doesn’t spread well, so I dot it over my face before bed and rub in as best I can then use my regular night cream over the top.  My skin no longer feels tight and uncomfortable and it’s not greasy in any way – a big thumb’s up.
  • While we’re on the subject of the menopause, it can make your vagina ridiculously itchy so if you find yourself in this uncomfortable position you need some Vagisil cream.  It’s absolutely brilliant, even if it does burn a little bit when you first put it on!
  • Since I was tiny I have been prone to cold sores and have been known to have 11 separate blisters on my lips during bad attacks (!), until I came across Liquorice Lip Balm.  It contains an active liquorice extract which has been proven to be effective against the HSV-1 herpes virus and I have only had 2 cold sores in the decade I’ve been using it.  I simply smear it on before I go to sleep and can’t believe how well it works.
  • Sweets.  Yes, I know, they contain sugar and sugar is the devil.  Just like fat was the devil 25 years ago, and wheat was the devil 10 years ago.  To those people who tell me to stop eating sugar I say this…………fuck off you kill joys.  There is nothing more comforting than a brew, your favourite TV show and a huge bag of Haribo gummy bears/Starburst/Wine Gums/insert your goodies of choice here.  I am no more ill than my non-sugar-eating chronically sick friends but happier and more content 😀

Of course, it goes without saying that my favourite things in the whole world are my friends, my dog and my parents on a good day, but as you can’t buy them at Tesco they’re excluded from my list 😉

 

The Female Orgasm

Bet you weren’t expecting that to appear in your inbox this morning 😉

I am buzzing.  Last night, just as I was winding down to sleep, I channel hopped across a programme dedicated to just this subject.  OMG.  They’re actually talking about women’s sexual pleasure on the telly 😮  Hallelujah and praise be.

Since the dawn of time, women have been made to feel that our sexuality is dirty, disgusting and unacceptable.  There are legions of negative words given to women who like sex: slut, slag, ho, whore, tart, bike…………and absolutely none given to men.  We are supposed to be chaste, pure, non-sexual beings as young adults, then the second we get married are expected to be nymphomaniacs who know everything about sex and how to pleasure both ourselves and our partners.  And if we don’t we’re frigid (again, there is no male equivalent of that).  You can’t have it both ways.

It didn’t shock me to learn that 65% of women couldn’t even point to the clitoris on a diagram.  FFS!  Can you imagine a man not being able to point to the end of his penis?!  And given a model of a clitoris, women had no clue it was massive and the part you can see and touch is literally only the tip of the iceberg so to speak.  Did you know that the structure of the clitoris wasn’t discovered until 1998 (fucking 1998!!!) and that there is no such anatomical thing as a G spot (excellent, cos I know I don’t have one).  And although sex education in schools has touched on male masturbation for some years now, it never mentions female masturbation – we’re not supposed to do that, y’see, because it’s just plain wrong.  Then we wonder why women have issues with sex in relationships.  Even women don’t talk to other women about sex, and in particular about masturbation and orgasm.  It’s still such a taboo.

How men achieve satisfactory sex, and how women achieve satisfactory sex, are worlds apart.  The majority of women don’t achieve orgasm from penetration alone for a start – that would be because our clitoris is nowhere near our vaginal opening.  Can you imagine rubbing a man’s belly button and expecting him to orgasm, because that’s what’s been happening to women since the dawn of time.  I do wish more men knew this, then we all wouldn’t have to fake orgasms to appease their egos.  If you get the chance, do watch the programme – it’s revelatory.  It was just so affirming to know that how I get off, and how I think and feel about sex, is normal.  It may not be how men think and feel and get off, but it’s normal for girls.  Just knowing that is such a relief!

So where does this subject fit in with my blog?  Well, one of the women interviewed for the programme was disabled, which was brilliant because society seems to think that anyone in a wheelchair isn’t interested in sex and doesn’t have sex, which of course is bollocks – we’re just as sexual as anyone else.  I have been single for most of my adult life, which doesn’t mean I haven’t had sex, it just means that I have a lot of sex with myself.  I’m better at it than any man I’ve ever met and according to the programme that’s fairly normal too, on account of the fact that men think women like what they like when it comes to sex but the truth is we don’t.  We’re conditioned to thinking that we should like what men like, but WE DON’T.  We only have to look at what happens after an argument with our partner – men want to shag to make up, women can’t bear to be touched because they’re hurt and angry.  For women, sex starts in the brain.  For men, sex starts in the penis (I’m generalizing and everyone is different I know, but statistics bare this out).

The other myth about women’s sexual pleasure is that young women have better sex.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As women get older they become more confident in who they are and this includes their sexuality.  I honestly thought that when I hit the menopause my libido would vanish along with my hormones but I have news – I am as randy as an old goat some days and wank as much now as I ever did.  One of the women interviewed for the programme was 81 years old and had sex every week with her partner and more frequently with herself, yay 🙂

I feel like, as women, we are living in very exciting times.   The #MeToo movement has shifted how women are both viewed and treated.  The BBC (the BBC 😲) dedicated a whole week last year to the Menopause, another taboo broken.  And now we have an entire programme dedicated to female orgasm, which is bloody brilliant.  I have hope that women will finally be allowed to be who they are, which is different to men.  Not better, not worse, not right, not wrong, just different.

 

You win again world

Being disabled is exhausting.  Utterly exhausting.  The world isn’t designed for us and every little thing takes us longer, is more complicated and can negatively affect our health.  I wrote about my visit to London and how there either wasn’t disabled access to the tube or, if it did exist, you had to be Sherlock-bloody-Holmes to find it and that ticket machines were too high for anyone in a wheelchair to use.  Cracked, sloping and uneven pavements are a nightmare if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter and many don’t have dropped curbs to enable you to get from one place to another.  Supermarket shelves those in wheelchairs can’t reach, checkouts which are too narrow, cashpoints you can’t get money out of…………the list goes on, and on and on.

The web is often the one place we get to be like everyone else………..at least it should be, but as many of you know that isn’t the case either.

I began blogging here on WordPress in 2012.  I’m on a low income and it’s free – that was the biggest draw for me.  WordPress also do all the design work, security and technical stuff for you which was my second reason for chosing them.  Some days my brain is so poorly I struggle to make a shopping list, so designing a website is totally out of reach.

WordPress.com (not to be confused with the paid-service WordPress.org) is free because it uses advertising.  Fairy nuff, the owners and staff have mortgages and need to eat too and it’s the trade-off for having ‘free’ web space for us users.  No issue with that whatsoever.  However, the more traffic your blog gets, the more adverts your readers are subjected to and the more intrusive it becomes.

Last year when I went on my blog there was a humongous advert in the side bar.  It was bright red (a colour my brain struggles with) and used flashing images.  As someone who can have a seizure to flashing lights I had a legitimate issue with this particular advert, so contacted the WordPress forum to complain about it (the downside to a free WordPress.com site is that there is no support or way of contacting WordPress, ie Automattic the company who owns WordPress).  I was told that if I didn’t want adverts I should upgrade and pay for a package which didn’t include adverts.  It boils down to the fact I had to pay money because I was disabled and the site wasn’t taking into account my disability.  I’m fairly sure there’s a law against that.

This year, not content with adding adverts to the bottom of posts and to my menu bar, WordPress have decided in their algorithm-wisdom to insert adverts between the paragraphs of my actual blog posts.  They clearly don’t have painful hands which find continual scrolling a nightmare, or use a text reader.  I’m also careful how I write my posts, as many of my readers have severe brain issues and I know can’t read long sentences or single bodies of text, so I do try to use lots of small paragraphs and by doing that seem to be attracting yet more adverts.

The adverts can be wildly inappropriate – there is currently one about mould removal, which is incredibly insensitive on a site which is read by people with life-threatening mould allergies.  So I also complained about that and was told advert content is outside of WordPress’ control and, once again, told to upgrade to a paid package which didn’t include adverts.  They basically just made my blog unusable for people with my kind of disability/illness and are holding me ransom to make it disabled-friendly.  I’m fairly sure there’s a law against that too, but even if there weren’t I wish the suits who made these decisions could live a day in my shoes.  Could struggle to get dressed.  Could struggle to make a meal.  Could struggle with the pain of using a screen and it’s bright lights, let alone the risk of a seizure from being hijacked by moving images.  Could struggle to make ends meet on a low income in a world which just keeps asking for more and more and more money in order to participate from my bed (laptop costs, landline charges, internet charges, mobile phone charges because sodding everything these days demands you use an app………..).

The thing that makes me the most sad, however, is that these large corporations don’t give a crap about people like you and me.  They don’t spend a second of their day wondering how bedbound or housebound people participate in the world.  Don’t give a crap about how poor people afford internet access.  Don’t give a crap how being sick or disabled isolates you from society or how difficult it is to do the most simple and basic of activities.  They’re not disabled y’see.  At least not yet.  I’d love to speak to them again when they’re 80, like my parents.

I don’t have the energy to fight WordPress/Automattic about the advert issue and even if I did I’d be wasting my time because they absolutely don’t care.   They just want to make money and aren’t the slightest bit bothered whose life is made harder in order to do it.  I’m too exhausted from spending the last 26 years sick and disabled to fight anyone about anything these days and can feel myself becoming more and more isolated from society as a result of the struggle to have my challenges recognized.  I’m actually tearful as a type that.  It really has been a monumental struggle for decades simply to do the ordinary things healthy people take for granted and I’m tired.   So tired of my already difficult life being made more difficult by a society that sees me as a nuisance or a whinger or a burden.  And I know many of you feel the same way.

So I used the Christmas money I received and was going to use as my first treat in nearly two years (a massage for my painful back and neck) to upgrade to an advert-free blog.  Well done WordPress, you win.

To add insult to literal injury, as you know after I contracted meningitis I acquired dyslexia and my spelling is truly appalling.  I only survive online because everything I type is auto-spell checked.  WordPress used to have a spellchecker as part of its editing software, until about a year ago when it suddenly disappeared.  My posts are fairly much gobbledegook until my spelling is corrected, so I had to find a browser extension (Grammarly) which checks the spelling for me on WordPress – more hassle and it’s much more obtrusive than the built-in WordPress one used to be.

I recently started a new blog on my bungalow renovations, but discovered that it contained a new WordPress Editor called Guttenberg.  It’s appalling and a good lesson in how to turn a perfectly good content editor to crap.  Not only do captions and descriptions about photographs appear over the top of the images rather than underneath as they used to so you can’t actually see the photos (whose flippin bright ideas was that?!), but they’ve split each blog post into paragraph blocks……….which now don’t work with the Grammary spellchecker.  So now I have no way of spellchecking my posts *sigh*.  I’ve raised the issue on the support forum, but if my last request for help was anything to go by I’ll just be told to upgrade to the business version of WordPress, which means I can install the Classic Editor as a plug-in.  Seriously, how to ruin a perfectly good blog hosting business by making it ridiculously complex and user-unfriendly.   I’m thinking of ditching the site altogether and moving my blog, and it’s million hits and nearly 1000 followers, somewhere that values its users, because this site no longer does.

 

 

 

Moving On

I hinted in my roundup on Sunday that this week my life might change forever……………..or not……………and by Christmas I was either going to be ecstatically happy or in the pits of despair.  Well, I am thrilled tell you I am not about to chuck myself off a bridge and the reason is that I am moving house 😀  Yes my lovely people I have finally had an offer accepted on my forever home after looking for nearly 5 years, and at the same time have had an offer on my cottage from someone who used to be my cleaner!  Fate.

The place I’m buying is a totally clapped out 1980s bungalow which needs total renovation.  And I do mean renovation.  There has been a huge under-ground leak of the central heating pipes so the entire concrete floor of the whole building has to come up and be replaced, not to mention a new heating system, rewiring, knocking a few walls down, the entire place plastered, new kitchen and new bathroom.  Piece of cake 😉

The reason I wanted this particular shit-hole is that:

  • it’s HUGE
  • it’s in a very quiet hamlet about 3 miles from where I live now
  • it has a private, south facing garden with open countryside views – I can finally lie in my bed with the curtains open and have a view of my beloved nature, including watching the sun set in the evenings
  • because I’m renovating it I can make it exactly how I want, which includes a disabled friendly kitchen and bathroom and……….wait for this………..a walk-in wardrobe
  • it has a double garage which is integrated into the house, which means space for not only my car but my off-road mobility scooter, and all under cover to the back door so no more getting wet
  • but the best thing of all is that there is a large annex room off the garage that I can use as a dedicated photography studio!!!

I’m absolutely terrified of how I’m going to do the renovation, but also cock-a-hoop at the same time – at the age of 52 I get my first ever brand new kitchen and a garden that isn’t overlooked 😮

While the work is being done I’m actually going to be living in the dated and full-of-spiders-and-possibly-mice annex.  It’s slightly larger than my bedroom now, and already has a manky sink and toilet in it, so I’m going to make one end the kitchen, the middle bit the ‘bathroom’ and the other end my bedroom.  It’ll be crap but hopefully it will only be for 3 months tops (famous last words).

I have no idea what Bertie will make of it all.  He gets super anxious at any kind of upheaval, even just if I’m decorating a room here at home, so I’m expecting it to affect him negatively 😦  But hopefully by the end of summer we’ll have a gorgeous, quiet new home with a floor-to-ceiling window in the lounge out of which he can see – he loves to nose through the window and bark at every leaf that floats by, but currently has to balance precariously on the back of the settee in order to see out 😉

I’ll leave you with what is going to be the view from my bedroom and lounge 🙂  I have the raging lergie, have totally lost my voice, and am off for a mug of honey and lemon tea!

 

 

 

Mini Me

There was a discussion on Loose Women recently about whether or not to have children.  It’s something I don’t really ever talk about because it seems to create animosity – I don’t talk about politics for the same reason.  As a society we’ve come a long way in accepting other people’s choices in some areas, gay marriage or gender fluidity for example, but are still stuck in the dark ages in others and babies are one such area.

Deciding whether or not to have children is a big decision for anybody and when you’re chronically ill there is an added dimension.  I know that the subject of kids can be hugely painful for some women if they desperately want a child but can’t have one and I don’t disregard that in any way.  I also appreciate that if you have offspring you love them with all your heart.  However, I don’t share your feelings and that’s allowed.  Just putting that on paper I’m already fearful of the response and I shouldn’t have to be.  I should be allowed to say I don’t want babies without being scared.

I have never wanted kids.  I wanted to get married as a teenager, but when I fantasized about my future husband the image of sharing him with a couple of children never entered my head.  Everyone said my biological clock would eventually kick in.  So I waited.  And I waited.  And nothing happened.  My biological clock is clearly sipping child free cocktails in the Maldives and watching harassed parents running around after their toddlers with a wry grin 😉

I’m going to go further than the fact that I have no innate desire for kids.  Children irritate the crap out of me (if I was scared to say I don’t want babies saying that makes me want to go into witness protection).  Just hearing kids playing outside and the inevitable squealing and shouting and crying that goes on is like fingers on a blackboard to me.  And parents who let their kids run around restaurants, bothering other people not to mention getting in the way of waiting on staff carrying hot food, should be banned.  It amazes me that just because other people love their children they expect me to.  I don’t.  They’re annoying as all hell, however I usually don’t say that out loud for fear of offending.  I, at least, am sensitive to other people’s feelings even if they’re not sensitive to mine.

There is pressure for all aspects of society to be “child friendly” which means there is a distinct lack of space for me as a childfree woman.  No-where I can go to escape other people’s offspring.  And, here’s the absolute shocker, I’m as offended by that as no doubt many of you are by the fact I don’t like your children.  I’m not allowed to say this though.  People with kids are allowed to say it’s unacceptable that there aren’t enough family friendly spaces, but I’m not allowed to say it’s unacceptable there are no kid-free zones.  God forbid not every woman on the planet is maternal.

When I tell people I don’t have children they either look pitying at me like I can’t have children and isn’t it a shame, assume I’ve chosen a career over babies, or they ask me why not.  How fucking rude and intrusive.  When I meet a parent I don’t ask them why they have a narcissistic need to produce a mini version of themselves because it’s none of my business (I’ll probably lose followers over that comment 😉 ).

I fake liking children every day.  I coo over babies, play with my friend’s toddlers and pretend I’m interested in school reports but the honest truth is I’m thinking in my head “when is it polite to make my escape?”

Historically women’s only role in society was to bare, and care for, children.  We weren’t allowed to be educated or to work outside the home, so if we didn’t have children we had no purpose.  And, of course, until the advent of contraception we had no choice in the matter.  In the modern world, however, all this has changed and statistically 1 in 5 western women reach menopause child free (I’m using the term “free” deliberately, because I don’t feel any “less” because of it).  It turns out that given the choice many women don’t want a mini me.

On a fundamental level I feel no need to leave behind my DNA as some kind of legacy to the world.  It is enough that I have existed.  I don’t feel the need to furnish my parents with grand-children – they’ve already had their offspring.   It is not selfish to love my life exactly as it is and to not want to negate my needs in favour of a little person’s – I don’t understand the whole “selfish” concept, it makes no sense whatsoever.  Is the fact I’d prefer to snuggle under the duvet on a Sunday morning to taking my kid to play football and standing in the rain pretending to care about a sport I loath selfish?  If so, I guess I plead guilty as charged.

Women who have children can be very defensive when I talk about my feelings.  I’m not attacking you or your choice, but neither do I expect you to attack me or mine.  I love my dog but I don’t expect you to like dogs, let alone love mine the way I love him.  I don’t let him bark his head off in the garden because it would be intrusive of your peace and quiet.  I don’t let him jump up at people, ruining their trousers with his dirty paws.  I wouldn’t let him sit next to you in a cafe while you’re eating and beg.  I don’t expect supermarkets or posh restaurants to allow dogs – there have to be some places which are dog free for those who loath cute, furry, adoring animals.  We are all different and society should reflect that.  There is no right or wrong, just choice.

I’m going to press “send” now.  Gulp.

 

It’s not the wild west

As a civilized society, we have fought long and hard for the laws of our lands.  We recognize that our actions don’t affect us alone but have consequences for other people and laws exist to make sure that we are all protected and society runs smoothly.   In the UK we have not only our state laws but we also signed up to the Human Rights Act which is an international law.

Under Article 12 of the HRA:

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.

Our right to privacy is particularly important to us.  If you send someone a letter through the post, you don’t expect that letter to end up on the front page of the local newspaper or the bulletin board at work.  We expect to be able to enjoy a private life and private communications and the law agrees this is a fundamental human right.  However, when it comes to electronic communications we seem to think invading someone’s privacy is fair game and the laws of the land are all but forgotten.

Some years ago, a ‘friend’ of mine posted an email I sent her on Facebook for all her 250 friends to view.  These people, most of whom didn’t know me from Adam or know anything about my 16 year relationship with this person, then judged the contents and I was found severely wanting.  No-one condemned her though for making a private letter public which, if you’re not aware, is against the law.

And now, a private Facebook post I sent to a small group of friends and family has been printed off and subject to a public discussion at the Annual General Meeting of my Camera Club. Instead of condemning the person who shared this private communication, however, I’ve been told off by several people for putting in on Facebook in the first place, despite the fact it was not a public post and was meant for my friends and no-one else.

“Facebook isn’t private!” is the cry.  Why not?  If you and a group of friends have a conversation over dinner in a restaurant you don’t expect one of your friends to be secretly taping it and sharing it with the universe the next morning.  That’s because you trust your friends and have some expectation of privacy.

This expectation, and legal right, to privacy is particularly important for people who live in isolation and depend on the internet for another of their fundamental Human Rights: the “right to create and maintain social relationships”.  I spend a minimum 17 hours of every day in bed and many of my friends are either totally housebound or bedridden.  As human beings, we have a basic need to interact with others and this includes group situations.  Facebook is a great way of doing that, particularly when you have very limited energy and one little post can be sent to 30 people at the click of a button.  So to have my fundamental human need for interaction with the world criticized infuriates me.  I don’t have the option of popping down the pub with my mates for a pint and a gossip, or chatting round the water cooler at work, so if I choose to have a natter with a group of friends on Facebook, in private and about any subject under the sun, that is my fundamental human right.

I have no idea why people think that just because they’re on a computer the laws of the land don’t apply and their morals go out the window.  Trolling, bullying, death threats, stalking and libel are just a few of the crimes committed every day online by people who wouldn’t dream of acting in that way outside of cyberspace.  It’s almost as if the Internet is the Wild West and we’ve regressed a couple hundred years to a totally lawless society where, if someone only looks at us the wrong way, we pull out our gun and shoot them dead.

The shitty part is, they get away with it.  Despite the fact there are laws in place to stop this kind of behaviour they’re almost impossible to implement.  I took legal advice over what has happened at my Camera Club, and while the Solicitor agreed I’d been legally slandered and my human right to privacy invaded, the Club has no money so it’s pointless suing them, it would cost me a small fortune to prosecute them and in any event the damage had already been done.

I am also discovering that people who are subjected to online or electronic abuses tend to be victim blamed in a BIG way and simply told the stay off the Internet.  No.  NO!  We have a basic human right to interract with other people and we should be allowed to do this in peace and safety whatever form it takes.   I most definitely should be able to chat privately to a group of friends without my conversation ending up as an Agenda item at a public meeting.

Here in the UK we have what’s called the Small Claims Court.  This is for people who have monetary issues of small value, eg. unpaid bills or problems with consumer goods, which involve law breaking but are considered too insubstantial to be heard by a Magistrates Court.  We need to have this for human rights violations.  At the moment, you can only take someone to court for defamation or invasion of privacy if you have shit loads of cash and are a public figure with a public reputation to uphold, yet this kind of thing can damage ordinary people just as much.  We need some way to redress this issue and a Small Human Rights Court would be just the job.

 

Think before you act

When we’re kids, we can go up to another kid in the playground kick his shin and steal his dinner money and although we get told off that’s the end of the consequences.  When we’re adults it’s a whole other ballgame as we’d be arrested for theft and assault.

I am hugely principled as a person.  Having been on the receiving end of injustice on more than one occasion I know what unfairness feels like.  I try to live my best life, to be fair, to be honest and to generally be nice.  I can’t see the point in being any other way – we are all contending with shit in one way or another and life is hard enough without me adding to someone else’s struggle.  However, none of us are perfect and we are all, myself included, allowed to make mistakes without being judged.  We have bad days, lash out when we shouldn’t and say stupid things we instantly regret.  As long as these are isolated incidents and we apologise I think everyone accepts it’s normal human behaviour.

However, there comes a time when actions become unacceptable.  If there is a deliberate attempt to cause someone else hurt or harm, for example, and particularly if this is sustained over a period of time it is not OK.  I am of the opinion that this behaviour should not be swept under the carpet but exposed.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke.

As you know if you read my blog regularly, I have been made to feel so uncomfortable by a tiny minority of women at my Camera Club that I have decided to leave.  I posted about this a month ago on my private Facebook page.  It was a post set to ‘friends only’, didn’t name names or identify anyone, just said that I felt I had been bullied and that I was leaving as a result.  There was no slagging off, name calling or nastiness – just the facts.  I was very careful and measured in what I said as I’m well aware of the laws of libel and bringing an organisation into disrepute.  I then went on to say I’d had an otherwise wonderful 5 years at the Club and had made some lovely friends.  The reason I wrote the post was that bullying behaviour should not go unchallenged, particularly when the bullies are in positions of power within an organization.

I then wrote a detailed confidential email to someone on the committee saying exactly why I’d left.  The person replied they didn’t want to get involved and it was nothing to do with them.  It should have been to do with them, however despite feeling let down I accepted it and was happy to walk away.

This week was the Annual General Meeting at the Club.  AGMs are official meetings where accounts are agreed, committee members elected and the official running of the Club discussed.  The meetings are minuted and the minutes placed in the public domain for all to see.

I didn’t attend the AGM, having left the Club some weeks ago, however I was informed by a friend the next morning that my private Facebook post had been brought up, discussed by the entire Club and my character basically assassinated.  Not only is this morally wrong, after all I have never done anything wrong and I was the victim of bullying behaviour which has not been tackled in any way, but it is illegal.

Contrary to popular belief, social media posts are not automatically legally classed as being in the public domain.  If we set a FB post to ‘public’ it is public.  If we set our privacy to ‘friends only’ it is classed as private, just like a letter sent to a friend.  It is also subject to copyright laws and cannot be shared or re-distributed.  There are exceptions, for example if a crime is committed your post can be used in evidence, but other than that it is not for public consumption.

In addition, laws of libel (for the written word) and slander (for the spoken word) exist to protect people’s reputations.  A defamatory spoken word or gesture is usually classed as slander if it:

  • exposes a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt; or
  • causes him/her to be shunned or avoided; or
  • has the effect of lowering his/her reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public generally; or
  • injures him/her in their office, profession or trade.

it is very clear what happened at the Club’s AGM was slanderous.  In order to be slander, the person has to be clearly identified (which I was, by name), the slander has to be witnessed (which mine was, by dozens of people) and it has to cause one of the above (I don’t think there is any doubt the effect of the discussion was such to lower my reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public).

I have made a formal complaint to the Club and requested a retraction of the discussion and a public apology be made to me but if that isn’t forthcoming I will consider legal action.  We simply cannot go round talking shit about people who have done absolutely nothing wrong.  Neither can we use people’s private communications without their express permission – the internet is full of people who have found themselves in very hot water as a result of sharing stuff they’ve seen online.

Morally, the result of this situation is devastating to me.  I try so hard to be a good person and I have been made out to be the villain in a situation in which I’m actually the victim.  However, that’s how bullying works.  Once you identify a bully and expose their behaviour the only recourse left to the bully is to turn the tables and deflect any negativity away from themselves and on to the subject of the bullying.  What amazes me is that anyone ever falls for this and can’t see straight through it.

The point to this post is to act as a reminder that we can’t go round talking shit about people without consequence.  We are not children and there are very strict laws in place to govern what we can and can’t do and say.  Even if we are talking about actual events we have to be very careful how we talk about them which is why writing ranty posts when we’re emotional is never a good idea, however justified we may feel.  As I said above, I was very careful in my choice of words and audience in my FB post and I think we all have to be aware of defamation laws before we open our mouths, either physically or on paper.  Luckily we have freedom of speech and expression laws in the UK but there are still limits to what you can say and how you can say it and we should never forget that when we gossip there is a human being with feelings on the end of our titillation.