Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A letter to my Dad

A friend of mine, a few days ago, made a suggestion that he hoped wasn’t invasive, but felt it needed to be said. As I brush my teeth, feeling as if (as this year ends and another starts) the world is very heavy on my shoulders. The last six months effectively boil down to a few sentences:

My Dad is a nasty drunk. A nice man and father, but a nasty drunk.

He has always had a drink problem; but heck, he was an adult in the ’60’s, 70’s and 80’s, who didn’t? Just like smoking, it was endemic. When you went out in the evening, you had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Smoking killed my mother nearly five years ago, and it seems Dad wants alcohol to do the same for him.

My first real memory of him was when I was three years old, and in a rage, he held me by the throat up against a wall, as my feet were dangling; I was being a pain and I didn’t want to go to sleep; he was drunk and needed me to shut up. My childhood is dotted with little memories like that. Now, don’t get me wrong. My Dad was fundamentally a good guy. He was in essence a good Dad. Yet, it is true, that both my sister and I were very scared of him when he had a few. We didn’t know how he was going to react. I left home at eighteen and to be honest I tried to stay away as much as I could.

Now, twenty years later, his alcoholic beast has raised its head again and, as before, I seem to be taking the front line.

I have been rather lax on my writing of late, and not without reason. What has happened over the last six-twelve months has been too close to home. I knew, that I had to write about my Dad, before I could write about anything else, but I just couldn’t. It hurt and I couldn’t process everything going through my head. I had writers block; my Dad was my writers’ block. I claimed I was researching my next book, I wasn’t, not really. I was just too scared to write.

Before I progress a little background.

The weekend before Fathers’ Day, I went to visit my Dad with my Son. It was the first time I had really seen the change in him. He looked thin, he smelt, he couldn’t remember where we usually met and what we usually did when we visited. I talked to him about my Sister who had visited the weekend before and he couldn’t remember her visiting. She had stayed with him for four days and he couldn’t remember. After my son and I had spent nearly two hours driving down to see him, he excused himself abruptly after thirty minutes and left. Just like that he left.

The next day was Fathers’ Day and we couldn’t get hold of him. My Sister and I ran every number we could find, constantly and no response. After twenty-four hours of no answer, and given the dire state he was in the day before, we called the Police. He eventually picked up the phone, the Police stood down, but we were getting concerned. I resolved to contact his family Doctor to make an appointment that week. The next day ,(Monday), at seven o’clock in the morning the Paramedics called me. They were picking him up from the floor, (he is a double leg-amputee), and he was pissed. Seven o’clock in the morning and he was drunk. Angry, difficult and drunk.

His behaviours over the last few months fell into place. The times he forgot we were meeting up despite calling hours before. The times he bailed after short periods with no real reason and the frankly horrible behaviour. I mean it he was vile. He ignored my son and swore at him, to the point my Son didn’t want to visit. He told me I was a poor mother, as well as listing my Sister and I’s faults in blatant detail whenever he could. 

He was a mean drunk.

And yet he managed to keep the drinking secret. How? I have no idea, but he did. He always organized meet-ups in the late morning, so he could have a short period where he was vaguely sober. He always wanted to meet in town so we couldn’t see his home. He lived alone, so he could buy alcohol and drink whenever he wanted. He could hide he wasn’t eating. (When I went to sort through his house I threw out three cupboards of out-of-date food). When we talked in the evening (because he liked to be out most of the day, or so we thought), he seemed tipsy, but not drunk. He ensured that no authorities called my Sister and I to tell us what was happening.

It wasn’t until a brave Paramedic put his career on the line and called me that we realized what was happening. The Paramedic told us that they came out three to four times a week to pick him up from the floor because he was drunk and this had been going on for months.

I raced down to see my Dad, and after an Emergency meeting with his family Doctor, we discovered the extent of his drinking. He was drinking between one and two bottles of spirits A DAY. He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t taking his meds and he could barely look after himself. I was disgusted at myself that he had gone to this state and we hadn’t noticed.

My Dad was admitted to the local hospital under a detox program. All-in-all he was in hospital for three months. My Son didn’t have the summer holiday we had organised, because I had to spend at least two-three days a week making phone calls on his behalf and visiting. At one point we thought he had stroked out during the detox program because he could barely hold himself up. There is a memory of my Dad scorched in my brain, of him, lying in a hospital bed, drooling, unable to speak, shitting himself and being spoon fed.

This is what alcohol addiction had done to him.

He didn’t have a stroke, but he did have swelling on the brain. Swelling which destroyed his short-term memory, his mobility and his control over his bowels. Under the advice of the hospital and his agreement, my sister and I organized a nursing home for him. We had to send our sixty-seven year old Father into a nursing home, because of drinking.

Over the last six months he has been sober. His mobility has recovered and he has more control of his bowels. His memory is still hit-and-miss and he has no real recollection of anything that happened during the last year. He finds it easier to think that I had put him in a home against his will instead of admitting the situation. For the last six months I have been constantly blamed by him for his predicament.

The lack of memory is unfortunately his  downfall. He has no recollection of what he was like during the last twelve months. He doesn’t understand what has happened. He thinks my Sister and I have dumped him in the nursing home and forgotten about him. Because he didn’t have organize Doctors meetings, or have telephone calls with Social workers and housing officers, it didn’t happen. Because he didn’t have to tour multiple homes and talk to accountants, his drinking is not an issue. Because he had decided to let me sort out all of his mess, he doesn’t realize how much work that is.

When he joked about drinking again and my sister and I berated him, he thought we were over-reacting. Who were we to dictate what he could and couldn’t do? He was lonely, and he could do what the heck he liked.

So, as he brought that bottle of Scotch last week, and started to drink it, he didn’t think it mattered.

Guess what Dad, it did!

I have spent the last two days having meetings and phone calls and playing damage control, because it does matter. When he drank himself to the point of hospitalization in June, it placed him on the RADAR of multiple Government agencies. When he refused help, it meant that liberties had to be taken away, and although my Sister and I have fought to maintain as many of those liberties as we can for him, it still means he can’t fuck up. Everyone is watching him; making sure he doesn’t get out of control again. If he drinks he is potentially dangerous to himself and others.

So, here is my letter - the one I was encouraged to write. This is what the last six months have been like for us. Dad, this is what Tor and I have gone through.

Your memory is shot and there is only so many times I can say all of this without going a little nuts. So, here goes… once and for all…

—————-
Dad,

I am sorry Dad that we didn’t notice what was going on in your life. I am sorry that you are lonely and we weren’t there for you as much as we could be. We understand that you want to live close to where you have spent the last thirty years of your life -where you spent your life with Mum- but Tor and I cannot up and move our lives to be close to you. I am sorry I couldn’t ask you to live with us, but I am already a dedicated carer to one member of my family, who really does need my full-on attention. I do not have the mental strength to cope with you too. (Also we would have to move, as our house would never work for you). We were happy for you to move close to us so we could see you every day, but we can’t force you. We respect your decision to stay in the area you are comfortable.

I am Sorry, I really am. I feel guilty that we let this situation happen to you.

However, you are a grown man. Yes, Tor and I do have some of the responsibility for this situation, but so do you. We offered help and support and you ignored it. We tried to get you help and you refused. Tor and I do not have any legal responsibilities over you. Everything that has been decided for you, has been done with your consent. We can’t force you to be anywhere, or do anything you don’t want to. Ultimately where you are is YOUR choice, not ours. YOURS.

This isn’t about blame. You messed up, but we all do. We are all human. Family is there to help you pick up the pieces, and we have done that. You have no idea how hard we have worked to get you the type of housing you want in the area you want. You have it; in three months time you can move. I have lobbied and called and negotiated and pulled off a mini-miracle. I have jumped you from the back of the long waiting list to the front. Months of MY hard work have paid off, but you need to be sober.

You have to accept that you cannot drink anymore and that you need help. I will organize everything you need to help you in this, but you need to acknowledge that you have an issue and take the help. If you don’t then no matter how hard I try, I cannot fix this problem for you.

Understand the stakes. If you drink, you will lose the place you are in; they won’t allow you to stay if you are drunk, dangerous to yourself and mean to the staff. If you drink, the placement in a more independent home -the place you cited you wanted to go to- will fall through. Your memory will go, your mobility will decrease and you will have to be placed in a home that is very restrictive. If you carry on this path, any liberties you currently have WILL be taken away from you because you are dangerous to yourself and others. The authorities will do this to protect you. I will not be able to prevent it.

So, I am pleading with you. Please when you think that the one drink doesn’t matter, then read this. Tape this letter to your wall. Memorize it.

Please be the Father and Grandfather we love. The one that takes your Grandson on buggy rides and who races him in the park. The one who is kind and loving. The guy whose mission is to make one person smile every day.  Please do not become the mean nasty drunk who forgets Christmas because the Scotch is more important.

I can’t do anything more for you. I can’t fix this problem anymore. I have placed enough bandages on this and I have fixed it all I can. I have picked you up and placed in front of you all of the opportunities you claimed you wanted. It’s up to you now. A life or a bottle. Your choice.

YOUR CHOICE.

Your Loving Daughter
 -K 

[DEEP BREATH]

I have needed to write this down for months. It has been swirling around my head to the point of breaking. It’s out of me now and perhaps, with two hours to go before the new year starts, I can finally start my days with a lighter heart. I have done everything I possibly can, (I know this now and I no longer feel guilty for the past) and now I need to pass the burden onto the only person who can fix this; my Dad.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ten hard steps in beating depression (essentially act like a caveman!)

EOver the last year or so, people I know have all been diagnosed with depression. Its a hard subject to talk about unless you have actually experienced it. Unless you have felt the depths of darkness that depression feels like, then there is no point in saying you sympathise, because frankly you don't.

There are many do's and don'ts that you should do when dealing with someone with depression, and I am guilty of all of them. Which is strange, because I have been dealing with depression for about nine years.

I was talking to someone who has recently been experiencing the lows of depression for the first time, and I was trying to offer a perspective. It's a tricky situation, because just as is the case that you can't talk about depression unless you have truly experienced it, you also can't comment on someone else's depression, because like apples from a tree, not one case is the same.

So, here is my view. Take what you want from it.

Let no man tear asunder
As much as we wish, the likelihood is that once you have experienced depression, you will never be away from it. It will always be a part of you, and your job is not to overcome the feelings you have, but to accept them and develop tools to deal with them. Accepting that you suffer depression is the biggest success you have, learning to walk with it as a friend, is the next.

This isn't all about  you
The feelings and emotions and fears you are feeling are all a part of you, however, they are most probably due to chemical imbalances in your brain and body. Depression doesn't happen because you did something wrong, or bad, or you are weak. The feelings your body is telling you, are a direct response to the biological triggers that have been set off. If you want to blame someone, blame neolithic man. If they had determined the way to deal with a big fucking predator was to sit on your arse all day and drink coffee, then none of us would be in this position.

Fight or Flight
We can't escape our inbred, biological programming. Thousands of years ago when man met an adversary, they had two responses: Fight or Flight. For some reason we feel that our bodies should be smart enough to realise that a weekly trip to the grocery store, or a marketing meeting, isn't going to clobber us around the head, but heck evolution doesn't work like that.

The anxiety we feel with modern living triggers the same biological responses as being chased by a mammoth. The problem we have, is that we fail to respond to those biological impulses. Instead we act all 'Victorian' about it, develop a stiff upper lip that could hold up a continent and quietly get through our day.  Slowly, through every day, these chemicals race around our bodies shouting, "RUN" and "Hit the bastard" and they get more and more out of balance, until we are a wreck.

We need to honour those impulses. Why do so many people cite that a good physical workout sorts out their head? Those people are accepting that basic programming and work with it. Get Physical and shout, scream, run, lift heavy things, fight, whatever... by reacting to those stress chemicals in an appropriate way, you are in fact reducing the chemical imbalances.

Dig deep for sanity
Yep, it's neolithic man again. There is a anthropological theory that our ancestors were either 'Hunter-gatherers' or 'Famers', or possibly both. The hunter-gatherers are responsible for the fight and flight responses that require us to physically move, the farmers are responsible for our need to get dirty. Green therapy has long been used for patients with mood disorders and there is a reason. Bacteria in the dirt help our body release serotonin, (The happy chemical).  Run in the forest before planting a tree, should help lift your mood.

Laugh.
Where-ever you can, whenever you can. Laugh at things that aren't funny, then roll around holding you sides when they are funny. The old adage that "Laugher is the best medicine" is pretty much true. Laughter and smiling changes everything from our hormone levels to our blood pressure.It changes our attitude to life and how we perceive ourselves. Laughing increases neurotransmitters and endorphins into our brain. People who smile are healthier.

Did you know a four-year old smiles about four-hundred times a day, whereas their parents may only smile fourteen? Why should our kids get all the fun?

You don't even have to have anything to smile at. Pick a random person and smile at them. They will either look at you as if you are about to commit a horrible murder, or... shockingly... they may smile back. To receive a smile is just as good as delivering it.

People always marvel at the British attitude to smile self-deprecatingly at themselves. The British are always the first to make a joke at their own expense. Some nations cite this is a quirk; I call this brilliance. If you find yourself amusing, then you will never have to go far to find a good laugh. It helped us survive the Normans, the Vikings, Oliver Cromwell and the Blitz. If you need unsubstantiated evidence, there it is!

A glass of wine is worth a thousand tissues.
One of the pamphlets you will be handed when the Doctor diagnoses depression, will probably be about eating and drinking healthily. As much as that large slice of cake helps our short-term happiness, in the long term it will do more harm than good. The glass of wine you pick up at the end of the day is more likely to make your mood worse; have you ever seen the drunk twenty-something sat on the steps at the nightclub, blubbing into the shoulder of her long-suffering friend? Yep, blame that on the fourteen GandT's she has drunk in five hours.

It's not just wine. Caffeine elevates your heart-rate and can make you anxious. Yet, Eggs contain B-vitamins that may help your stress levels. Low digestible sugars are better than white bread and sweeties. Dark Chocolate may help, but not if you eat half of Bournville out of chocolate.

A balanced diet, eating a bit of everything but not glutting out on the bad stuff, will help you more than you realise. Forget the easy fast food outlets for a quick fix to your mood, try something that your body may actually benefit from. Your caveman buddies didn't sit with a tube of Pringles and a large hot-chocolate with whip. Take their advice.


Random acts of kindness
There is a tendency to always look inwards when you are feeling down. Everything feels as if its about you; every little slight, every little disaster. Life isn't like that. The universe isn't out to get you and people don't want to hurt you. It's hard to change that perspective. A simple -but not necessarily easy- way, is to do 'Random Acts of Kindness'. It doesn't have to be large, or expensive. You don't have to restrict these acts to family or friends. Anyone, anywhere can benefit from something you can give.

Help a stranger with the door as they struggle. Allow someone who looks harassed to go before you in the supermarket queue. Stop and talk to someone who looks a bit sad. Help distract a child who is having a meltdown in the clothes store so the Mum can catch their breath. Buy a coffee for the person in front of you as you wait at the coffee shop. Small acts, that change people's day. If people are genuinely thankful, and offer to pay you back in kind, then just ask them to pass the favour forward. Karma is a wonderful thing. Not only will you benefit from the good feeling you have from helping someone, but you understand that your problems are not the only ones out there. You remind yourself that you are a good person and develop a sense of perspective. Win, win in my book.

Accept the things you can't change.
There are battles in life you can't win; physical issues, societal problems, global disasters, the fact that your kid's teacher is called 'Hyacinth'. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Nothing, Nada, Zip. Pick the battles you want to fight and make the fight worth while. As for the rest? Ditch 'em. It is not worth your time and effort plotting a campaign of harassment on Ms. H. Pumpkin-Patch because you have hay-fever in the Spring. Yes, it is not as easy as it sounds. Yes, it is probably the toughest thing you will have to do. Yet, realising you aren't responsible for everything that happens in the world, and your job is not to make the world perfect, the simpler the battles you actually have to fight are. One of my favourite phrases at the moment is, "Not my monkeys, Not my circus". Picturing your arch nemesis in a gorilla suit makes walking away so much easier. 

Change the things you can.
The majority of our lives are determined, not by the decisions of others, but the decisions we make for ourselves. Where we live, where we work, who we have as friends, how we treat our family, how we act with strangers and how we look at our life -- these are all parts of our life we have within our control. When you think about it, there isn't much in life out of our control. We all feel as if we are the puppet to someone else's play -- that life is something done TO us, not something we DO. Yet, when you really think about it, there isn't anything in our lives that we can't change.

Hate your husband - divorce.
Dislike your job - apply for a new one.
Tired of your career - retrain.
Don't like where you live - move.
Friends treat you like crap - dump them.
Don't know what to do - ask for advice.
Have a chemical imbalance in your brain - take your meds.

I accept, that sometimes the decisions we have to make for our own happiness are tough calls to make -- especially when we are dealing with friends and family. I acknowledge that the decisions we make will potentially have financial and emotional consequences. There are times when the decisions we have made, are wrong later on down the line. Yet when we realise that our life is a myriad of dots that we have created; that life is a series of decisions WE have made, then we find the strength to take control of our lives. We get the strength to acknowledge our decisions, successes and mistakes. We are not a victim of our own circumstance; we are the ring-leader of our own show.

You know I said it's not about you? Yeah, actually it is...
I was sort of telling a little lie when I said it wasn't about you. Although depression is probably out your control in respect of your hormones and body chemistry, how you deal with it is your control. There is only one person who can cure -okay, alleviate is probably a better word- your depression. You.

Only you can acknowledge you have depression and that you want to change that situation. Only you can try to understand how YOUR body works and then take steps to remedy it. Whether it is talking to someone, or taking your meds, or changing the parts of your life within your control; only you have that power.

As much as we would like to, this isn't a situation we can pass on to someone else to fix like a broken washing machine, or a bad cell-phone service. Our friends and family can only support us so much, but if we don't acknowledge the situation and take steps to help ourselves, no amount of loving-platitudes will solve the situation.


Wallowing in our own self-regret and lamenting life's hurdles helps no-one and probably alienates more friends than we have. It is not easy, but then life never is. When cavemen had difficulties, they didn't sit around their rock on a Friday night crying into their beard... but there again they only had a language of one word and had a life expectancy of twenty years - okay bad analogy. The point still stands though - Running, getting dirty, eating, drinking, and living life a caveman is better than tea and sympathy in lightening your mood. Although, I would avoid donning a fur-lined loin cloth. That look isn't going to help anyone.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Power to the People



I know I have been quiet for a while. There has been a mass of family stuff I have had to deal with over the last few months: Stuff that I am still processing. I have switched on my computer countless times and tried to write. Yet, all I have to write about is the shit I am dealing with due to my Dad, and frankly I am still not ready to write about it. I have half a dozen posts, half written and abandoned, as it is clear, I am still dealing with how my paternal family has spectacularly imploded.

So, I am not going to write about it. Not yet.

I am, instead, going to write about one of the huge ‘taboos’ that should never, ever be spoken about. (And no, its not if the twelfth Doctor is awesome, because let’s face it, we all know he is).

It’s politics. In fact, it’s Scottish politics.

I am not Scottish and I live hundreds of miles away from Scotland, but if you live in the UK at the moment, it’s hard not to be caught up in it.

I am disenfranchised from the whole process. I am not eligible to vote – and that is a whole other discussion: Should a decision that affects the entire country, only be decided by a certain proportion of the population? Regardless, this is the most dynamic the UK’s politics has been in years, and in that respect it’s joyous to see.

I am not going to comment on whether Scotland should cede from the rest of the United Kingdom. After reading the horror stories in the press, commenting on the outcome is a guaranteed way to find a mutilated haggis in your bed and the screech of bagpipes as you wonder out of your house, eating your toast and rushing to work. The passions that have been stirred up by the debate are immense.

However, that’s the point. Despite being dis-engaged from the whole process, this is the most alive I have seen British politics for a long time – in fact, the most dynamic politics I have seen in my lifetime.

The political process across the western world has become stagnant. As the parties have come to the middle-ground to woo voters, they have in turn, just turned into each other. Yes, there are fundamental views that you will find dependent if you talk to a conservative or a liberal voter. Regardless of the country you reside in, Conservatism deals with business, conventional family values and the protection of the status-quo. Liberalism is based on a levelling of society wealth as well as integrating marginal groups. Regardless of the colours of the ribbons the politicians wear, if you are richer or older, then you [generally] vote conservative. If you are young and trying to make your way in the world, you [again, generally] vote liberal. It’s a generalization that will be flamed, but hey, I am not a political commentator. I am just a hack blogger.

As the ethos of the political parties change from red or blue to an odd sort of purple, then the motivation of the electorate is decimated. I mean, why bother? If you are just dealing with shades of the same hue, does it really matter, when the people ruling your country are all part of the same ‘old, white, boy’s club’? (And yes, as much as we believe we are progressive in the western world, it is still an ‘old white, boy’s club’. Women and marginal groups are being excluded via the natural process of going to the ‘wrong school’).

Yet, the Scottish referendum is something completely different. Here is finally a choice. This is a real choice that will make a real change. It’s not based on party lines. How you feel about gay marriage, cultural integration, family values or wealth distribution has no real influence on whether you want Scotland to be an independent country.

I find this amazing, uplifting and exciting.

In my last two years in High School, I studied the subject of  ‘Modern History’. The ‘British History’ part of the course was delivered by one of the most influential teachers I have known. Mr. Hughes, tried to make us think of ourselves. During the lesson –usually about half way through- he would stop teaching and we would stop scribbling notes. He would engage us in a debate into whatever subject took his fancy at the time. The conversations ranged over three hundred years of history. Underlying the political debates we would have, was the fundamental belief that if you didn’t vote you have no right to protest the decisions the elected party makes in your name. Voting is important. At every opportunity you are given to vote, it is your responsibility to make use of it.

The right to vote has become so accepted that it has become unimportant. Its not a right to fight for because we all have it. It’s like coffee, or banana’s. If it’s everywhere, then we fail to see it as something special.

We forget that this ‘fundamental’ right we pay so little importance to, has only recently become fundamental for all.  Universal Male suffrage was only granted in 1884, Heck the house I am typing this from was only built a few years later. That’s MALE suffrage. Women below the age of thirty didn’t receive the vote in the UK until 1928.  The universal right to vote in the UK is less than a hundred years old! Alfred Hitchcock had already made his third film and the BBC was already in place. The right to vote shouldn't be taken for granted.

In fact, when we think about it, the right for a free, democratic election is still  a right that is not experienced in large portions of the world. Yet, in the UK we take the right to vote as something we do if the weather is nice. In the last General Election in 2010 the voter turnout was 65% -- which was an improvement over the 2001 election where the turnout didn’t hit 60%. Clearly voting is something we don’t take pride in.

Going back to my starting point: Scotland. Why is the Scotland vote so important? For the first time in a long while we are seeing people voting in large numbers, (they suspect the voting turnout will be 97%). The vote is –if you believe the polls- too close to call. Even if Scotland votes ‘No’, the concessions in regional devolution they have gained over the last few weeks, will make a change to how the Scottish government rules the Scottish inhabitants. If they vote ‘Yes’ then the whole of the UK will experience a dramatic change in the political landscape.

I am excited and passionate about this vote, despite not being a part of it, because I hope to see once again, the electorate becoming impassioned to use the power they have. A vote isn’t an empty thing, but something we can use to make a real change.  Perhaps now party lines will be re-worded, electoral boundaries will be re-drawn, new electoral systems re-vamped. Wouldn’t it be great, if there was a devolution of power from a central base, where everyone is in the same coloured suit, to regional capitals where the politicians are visible to the electorate that vote for them?

Who knows if this will ever happen? It reminds me of the ‘Yes,Prime Minister’ episode (which is probably thirty years old now) which concentrates on this very issue. The socialist politician who is hell bent on radical change, backs down when regional power is proposed and  she realizes that the people may have the power and not the politicians. 


This is truly an exciting time. This is where we may see real change. This is the time we are shown we could have the power if we take it and vote. We have the politicians we have, not because we have chosen them, but because we have failed to vote and protest for an alternative.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Why we will never understand...



"The Hole in the Ground" 

Anjis Beach-head is a wonderful sight,
The shells maybe falling by day and by night
But whenever these whiz-bangs are flying around
We all made a dive for that hole in the ground

The M.E don't seare (??) us we have met them before
They dive from the sun with a menacing roar
So we elevate, and swing, the old gun around
And they all finish up in a hole in the ground...

The first two stanza's of a poem, that my GrandFather sent to my 
my Grandmother as he served in the Light Infantry from 1940-46 across Europe.
(I believe a friend of his wrote it and a number of people copied it to their loved ones).
The Poem goes on for four pages and has 10 stanza's  


So, I will use the usual preface, “I am a little bit drunk”… you know that’s code for the fact I have no inbuilt filters.

I have had a couple of conversations with friends in the UK and US friends on the subject of Gun control. Yes, I know it’s a controversial subject, and yes some –or most of you- will hate me at the end of this post.

Let me state this for the record, I am not an anti-gun or a pro-gun activist as such. I believe that anyone can own a gun as long as reasonable checks and balances can limit the damage that guns can potentially do. Yes, this does mean legislation and restriction. If you don’t understand the damage a gun can have, you aren’t allowed one. If you can’t keep it out of the reach of those that are too young to know the difference then reconsider. Be prepared; you own a weapon of destruction. If you accept you can be pulled over by the traffic cops, then accept a policeman can knock on your door to ensure little Timmy hasn’t used your semi to prop up his lego-tray table. Is this too much to ask of any sane human being?

I am British, and as such I have grown up in a culture where gun crime was infrequent. It didn’t touch me. Even in the times where violence was prevalent in my neighbourhood, guns were not a part of it. I come from a society where gun culture and passion for guns is a rare thing. We even abhor hunting of animals. I respect that I am speaking from inexperience. Have I ever had to protect myself from someone with a gun? Well, no. The likelihood the perpetrators would have a gun is so small, that my need to have one too is so small. Maybe during the zombie apocalypse then yes, but I would rather buy an axe at the hardware store – a lot more efficient I believe.

So my disclaimers are in: I am drunk, I am on the fence (as much as the UK allows, which by US standards is probably very liberal) and I have no experience of gun culture. I also come from Europe – this disclaimer will become apparent later on.

Dragging my drunken brain into working.

I have spent some of the evening –which in social media terms is a life time- trying to understand why guns are so necessary in the USA. It is a hot-topic as I have found out and one you shouldn’t mess with unless you are stupid or well stupid (sums me up pretty well).

The thing is I think (and yes, I am speaking for the whole of a continent, who thereby has a right to shoot me down) Europe, just doesn’t get it.

Regularly, I get posts on my Face Book newsfeed of another shooting in a school, or a college, or a university, or a restaurant. Usually suffixed with the lament of “why?”, and yes, most of us are wondering about that too.

In 1987, in a man climbed into the town clock of Hungerford, UK and killed sixteen people and injured fifteen others using a semi-automatic rifle. I was 14 and I still remember the news program. Our culture, was not equipped to deal with such an incident and who knows how many people would have been saved if someone had shot him on the outset. We don’t and in 1988 (a year after) semi-automatic weapons were banned. Instead of liberalizing gun control to protect ourselves we restricted it. I am glad.

This was a turning point. If we had allowed hand-guns and semi-automatics would the US be our standard now? Would I send my nine year old to school not knowing if he would be one of a number shot in the seven NRA accredited school shootings in eighteen months?

I am thinking, and typing out loud, and not as coherent as I wanted. Did I say I was drunk? Clawing my drunken brain to rambling mode.

I wanted to know if kids where obtaining guns from their parent’s then going to school and shooting kids, then why was it not being stopped? The conversations all began from this article from (I admit) a UK based newspaper. Let’s acknowledge the bias here. Do we all understand the word bias here? I.e. knowing the stance from which our sources are derived and understanding any political and social sway they write to promote their cause? (I am just clarifying, because I don’t- apparently)
http://www.theguardian.com/news/oliver-burkeman-s-blog/2014/jun/12/gun-lobby-tactic-redefining-school-shootings

The gun debate mainly seemed to centre on people calling me an ideological slave to the government and not wishing to give me information. Probably a role they believe I filled quite well by not agreeing with them. At the time I was intrigued and entertained. Now, a little drunk and tired, I am just a little sad.

(Can you see where my reference to bias come from? Would an ideological slave understand the meaning of bias even if it came and goosed them on a drunken party? The answer is no, which nullifies the idea I am a political sheep)

I want to explain why I think guns are abhorred in Europe. Yes, it is subjective and probably will be flamed.

One of the criticisms (I think) was the fact that I am, not American. I don’t understand the culture or the history; that is true. I don’t. But maybe, Americans don’t understand ours.

I was brought up and now reside in Europe.

In 1914 –one hundred years ago- our country started fighting a war, the likes that had never been seen before. Forget any civil wars, or wars of independence. This isn’t called the ‘World War One’ for nothing. People died. Our families died. Our homelands were wrecked and ravaged.

We still feel the pain, and then twenty years later it started over again.

Two generations of families were destroyed with war. Friends in the US cited that ‘Pearl Harbour was a part of it’. That was 1941. 194 fucking 1. My Grandad had been in a tank for over a year before you came into it, and my Grandad was in a fucking tank two years after you buggered off.

That’s the thing you see. Just as it’s cited that Europe’s issue of comprehension on lack US gun control is determined by a continent and thousands-of-miles, the US lack of comprehension of our liberalism is defined by the same distance.

To us, the tangible feel of a gun is still painfully obvious.

I know Americans lost their lives in World War Two, but we still have veterans who are alive and part of peoples’ family, who go and touch the place where their friends died. We live on streets that were decimated and then rebuilt. There is not a family in this country that was not intimately been touched by war. There was not a person in this continent that doesn’t walk past a ravage of war. We drive, or walk, or live, by old air-fields, or bomb-sites. We have grandparents who were lost, or those that survived. Never anything in-between it seems.

America may have been in our wars, but out of the nine years we were at war, you were only there en-masse for a few. Your families were safe as you battled, ours weren’t.

As we commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, I wonder how many American’s feel so intimately touched by the American Civil War. As I pass the war memorials of young soldiers, as I walk my son to school –knowing that every village and town and city has the same- do you have the same? I trace my ancestry, not by when I landed on a continent, but which parents survived a war and why?

Do you have that?

I know that many may say ‘We should get over ourselves. That was years ago’, but as I was challenged by history dating back three hundred or more, I wonder if we should. If Americans feel the need to cite King George III and a war three hundred and fifty years ago, then I think we have a few more years to go.

You can only remember your scars through your history books – we still touch our scars.

We know arming ourselves against the government wouldn’t have helped. That wasn’t the enemy we were fighting. We were fighting oppression through a lack of information and education – would guns have solved that? Oppressors didn’t rule entirely through violence, they ruled by burning books and blinkered ideology. Am I the sheep by ensuring I look at all sides of the argument before deciding? I think not.

I guess we will never understand each other. The US will never understand why we don’t want guns, the Europeans will never understand why the Americans do. However, it’s a shame that the US will have to have every single family in their country define themselves by the death of someone they loved –or could have loved- due to a bullet, or a bomb, or a grenade, before they act.

We have seen the fire –it still lives with us- and we never want to see it again.
We don’t want a gun in our house, or in our street, or in our town.
Not because we are weak, but because we have been strong and we need to be strong never to go there again.


Maybe, even though you don’t want to, you may see that now.

(If you can't agree to protect each other, just please protect the children - speaking as a Mother).