Friday 3 March 2017 – Sportsman’s Inn


Sad LucyThe probation officer rang at 12 o’clock today. You were expecting the call at some point this month, but it still came as a blood-stopping, brain freezing, kick in the groin.

She said, ‘He’s getting released today.’

The memories come wave after wave, and you drown in the pain of them all over again. As you sink below the surface, her voice dims to white noise and you think about revenge for the first time, about taking his life, ending it short like he did to Dominic, but doing it slowly, and very very painfully.

Then, you’re curious how his family might react if he too, left them suddenly.

‘He was a wonderful, thoughtful son,’ they would say. ‘How could someone do this to him?’

Everyone else thought he was a dirt-bag apart from other dirt-bags. He needed killing. But surely, even in their narrow innocent perspective, unwrinkled in their unconditional love and their parental blindness, they should suffer as you have?

It wouldn’t be murder, would it? You could plead insanity, diminished responsibility. It could be viewed as an accident if he was crossing the road at the same time that you were driving past. At speed. Or even better, you could do it under the cover of night time, hiding down a dark alley with a cricket bat. Later, you burn the bloodstained willow on the pub’s open fire, the evidence destroyed.

As if your thoughts couldn’t get any darker, you think about other options, like paying someone. On one hand, that’s probably more dangerous than doing it yourself because now two people would know your plans. However, a professional would be more clinical, less emotional and make fewer mistakes. He or she, if there such a job as assasinette, would be more likely to have the right equipment; a gun with the serial code filed off, a stiletto, or an undetectable poison slipped into a pint at the Station Hotel. This toxin doesn’t have an antidote, but it kills slowly and painfully. All major organs shut down. He bleeds from his ears, his nose, and his arse, Ha! you smile at this method. Yes, he’s fucked and his friends can only watch as he dies very slowly.

After recent events at Kuala Lumpur airport, your contractor might contemplate a VX nerve agent. It was very successful, but the finger was automatically pointed at the leader of North Korea. That wouldn’t do. You would be on the police’s suspect list anyway, you’d at least have a motive. So you would ask the killer to pass on this method, yes it’s deadly, but it would be over too quickly, at least for your liking. Where would he get it anyway, unless he has contacts at the highest level in Pyongyang.

Kim Yong-un is paranoid. He sees his relatives as a threat to his rule, and Kim Yong-nam wasn’t the first of his relatives to be mysteriously killed.

What’s the difference between fratricide, Avunculicide or employing a virucide?  You’re not paranoid and you don’t feel threatened, but at this point, you are contemplating organizing, planning, and hiring someone to do your dirty work.

You think about a ‘no win no fee’ type arrangement like mis-sold PPI. If the terminator can provide proof that the contract is complete such as photos of the dead target in a pool of blood, perhaps a headshot with his testicles in his mouth. Even better still bring his head back on a platter, cash in hand, no questions.

‘He’s under the same bail conditions as before,’ she says rising above the white noise. ‘If I can be of any help, you’ve got my number.’

How the hell can she help when you’re drowning?

’Maybe she can,’ you think as your head pops briefly to the surface. Who’s the most violent, unbalanced, and disturbed person on her probation list? Who does she know that has no remorse and has killed before? She could text you his number.

Then again, he might not be around very long as you dream the ironic dream, start the plan in your head, and Google ‘Assasinette.’

Cumbrian Lad gives Will a little support

P1110255Will didn’t have a brilliant start to his life after being diagnosed with leukaemia. However, (drum roll) this year he has completed his senior education at Ullswater Community College (UCC) and has won a place at Newton Rigg College, going on to study Business. His Mum Karen, has worked super hard and is super proud of his achievement, as are the staff at UCC.

But to carry on to Newton Rigg, Will needed some specialised voice software that allows him to interact with a PC, and translate his spoken word to text.

This is where Cumbrian Lad steps in with their small bursary scheme. We were contacted by Heather Hopkinson from UCC and then by Will and Karen to see if we could help.

We managed to locate a copy of the Dragon software that he needed and we met with Will and his Mum this week on Wednesday 9th to present it to him, already pre-installed on a laptop.

Will is a very positive and happy young man with an easy smile, and we too are proud we could make a little difference to his educational experience.

Best of luck for the future Will, and of course to you too Mum!!

Cumbrian Lad

There is still funding available so please Click here to apply

More than a sonnet



Before I know it you’re six, missing teeth,

and legs stretching  beyond belief.

I hardly recognise that porcelain face,

that toothless smile seems out of place.


What’s happened since Iraq invaded,

a blond, and engaging laugh pervaded,

chattering sibling, fighting for attention,

summer house, a Christmas Child, family perfection?


I never seem to find the time,

for important things like nursery rhyme,

double cuddles, tucked up tight,

football, tennis, or your fluttering kite.


But, I offer; single occupancy and shoes,

first hand clothes, religion and news.

I’ll also give, hidden culture and Vicargate,

security, I’ll fight naivety and negotiate.


Even now, I check to see if you still breath,

I touch your head, extinguish the light, and leave.

Is the News Media Biased?

The Unreported Journalist.  #IanPLoftus

Like many of my friends, I have slowly become disillusioned with the quality of media news reporting since 23rd June 2016. Perhaps we didn’t notice it before, but as people voted on the most important decision the majority of us will ever make in our life and times, we feel that many of the accounts on the E U referendum have been one sided. I have to say, this bias was much more in favour of the remain camp than the leave, but either way it doesn’t matter, this piece isn’t about sides, it’s about why journalism has left the equitable high ground, and has now entered into the debate, with opinions.

My old fashioned idea of journalism or reporting was; to present the facts, first hand, and in a balanced report. I aspired to this when I was fourteen thinking about careers. Sadly, I have to say, I didn’t go down that route, and my schoolboy view doesn’t seem to be the case any more. Many high profile journalist now often have their own agenda, or follow those of their news outlet, and comment on situations which clearly show a thinly veiled biased view.

They, again mainly high profile journalists, are turning into ‘commentators’ which is fine, but there are certain ways and situations to present that kind of reportage, particularly in the written media. And many ‘Commentators’ do this very well in the press. You always know which side politically they are on, there’s no hidden agenda or thinly disguised pretence of even trying to be balanced. You either buy that paper or you don’t, depending on your views.

I feel the clue is in the word ‘reporter.’ I’m guessing derived from the Latin. ‘Re’ for ‘back’ and ‘portandum’ to ‘carry.’ And, ’Reporto’ is the latin for ‘I carry’ but I’m willing to accept corrections from the word police.

Is this type of reporting happening because editors are looking for original journalism?

I ask that because on a Sky advert today, advertising themselves, the anchor boasted, ‘the only channel with original content.’ Surely, depending how you define ‘original’, the report is the report, particularly in things like ‘Breaking News?’ I might be doing Sky an injustice, and the originality she spoke about is the stories they cover that no-on else is reporting on?

I hurt my arm skiing in January and haven’t been able to drive. Consequently whilst working at my desk, I have had the news on in the background for much of the time. I have watched the news on an off from 7am to 1am the next day, channel hopping between, Sky, Fox, BBC, CNN and Al Jaazera et al, trying to find something new or an unbiased balanced view.

My findings, after four weeks of intense viewing are; the news channels all basically report the same stories and frankly, if you take away the branding of the organisation at the top of the screen, it’s getting very difficult to establish the difference between them. The formats are the same, their views on the story are the same and most disconcerting are the one to one interviews. There’s always the combative approach from many journalists particularly if they have a politician beside them. The journo’ jousts back and forth with them, trying to skewer and embarrass them, very often interrupting them as they answer the question put to them, ‘because they really want to get at the truth of the story.’ The truth is, many of them want to hear the sound of their own voice and more importantly, drive the agenda and their own opinion on the topic.

I googled the meaning of the word journalism, and pulled it off the web, deleting the bits irrelevant to this piece. ‘Ahh, he’s miss directing to prove his point,’ you might argue, but honest Joe, the other bits where actually just not relevant.

a :  the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media

b :  writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine

c :  writing characterised by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation

d :  writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest

As well as the pressure from the editor, as everyone is fighting for readers or viewers, there is now also the conundrum of points c: and d: above to content with.

As previously stated, I don’t want to make this into an EU story it’s not, but the way much of the media reported the referendum as it unfolded, as a viewer it started me thinking about how the media’s spin on a story, how ever small can influence a reader or an audience.

As a leaver, it was very frustrating when watching many of the news articles and even a Question Time (Q T) program just recently. The panel consisted of David Dimbleby, clearly unbiased, three remainers and just the one leave campaigner. That combination was always going to end up going in one direction, but it was another one of the things that got me even more interested in this issue of unbalanced reporting.

During the debate, and this program is now just the tip if the politically biased iceberg, David constantly interrupted the leaver when speaking, often after a few seconds and fired another question at her putting further pressure on having not answered the first question satisfactorily. He mainly let the remainers carry on, uninterrupted, and more ashamedly, he explained the point they were making even further.

Whilst Q T IS a politics program and we expect, even relish the cut and thrust of the debate, it’s unbalanced approach gives the viewer a twisted view of what should be an objective argument. Therefore it presents an overexposed view of one side in the debate, consequently changing or confusing opinions. For me as an informed viewer, that’s dangerous, even more so for the viewers on the sideline of the debate wanting to make a decision.

More often than not now, I and my friends find ourselves screaming at the TV screen, or posting frustrated FB messages, and not just during Q T, ’You asked him a bloody question, let him answer it!’ This seems to have crept over from the dedicated political show, when we had the likes of Jeremy Paxman who was so desperate to trip the interviewee up and prove him or her wrong or to be lying, that he became rude, over into the normal everyday News program,

So, here I am, trying to give an unbiased opinion on the biased opinions of the UK media and press.

After four weeks of being desk bound and over indulging in a news fest, I’ve concluded that there are several different types of media bias. The most common include: Bias by omission, that is just leaving stuff out, which occurs when the media just focus on one side of a story, or one aspect of a story, even such as the Q T approach by ‘talking over’ some guests giving the other view more airtime.

There’s bias by selection of sources, which occurs when media outlets leave out sources or interviewees that support an opposing point of view. We’ve seen this recently with the UK immigration debate, especially around the migrants at Calais. The reporting always covers the 1000’s of migrants at the camps, who are starving, cold, living in poor conditions, travelling for months across Europe from their war torn country of origin, ripped off by a trafficker, but now can’t get over to the UK. Compelling viewing, especially with interviews with the migrant. What the reporter invariably fails to say, is that the migrant has crossed six other countries where they could have claimed asylum and need not be in that desperate situation.

Then there’s a bias by story selection, and I’ve seen this right across the US news channels. This type of bias is a pattern of reporting stories that coincide with a specific agenda, which at the moment is ‘Anti-Trump.’ This type of bias occurs when a media outlet regularly reports stories that support only one political point of view. This is similar to bias by story placement. This variation occurs when a news outlet prominently places stories that coincide with a specific agenda while ‘burying’ those that represent an opposing point of view, again, ‘Anti-Trump is still relevant here.

I really didn’t want to head into Donald Trump territory, but for the sake of clarity, biased reporting is not the same as Fake news, but can be just as dangerous. I do suspect though that many of the news stories that President Trump refers to as ‘Fake,’ are actually just a story with the reporters or that media’s outlet own spin on it. Trumps feels they are not in his favour.

As a suggestion, perhaps the main stream political media could take a leaf out of the Six Nations reporting. Rugby is just as passionate and as absorbing as politics, and everyone including the supporters are an expert with a view. The reporting, whether by the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French or Italian media, is well made without bias. And at then, everyone has a drink in the bar.

This essay is purely about the quite obvious news bias I’ve encountered since my accident. So, whilst I’ve mentioned various programs, people or current news, this only reflects my own opinions, as I ‘Carry it’ to you.

Naively I did a Google search today, on ‘Biased News reports in the UK.’ I had a return of 2.7 million hits on the same subject.

Clearly it isn’t just me then?


No one talks about alcohol.

Tuesday 2nd June 2015

Vicargate –

‘Courage is a peculiar kind of fear’.

Today, for the second time in a few days, you’ve used the phrase ‘There by the grace of God……..’ Your demon, the elephant in the room, blinked, an eyebrow raised. Your illness, takes an embarrassed cough, then confidently announces its presence like a peacock assured of its sexuality, spreading its wings and splashing itself all over Sky News, Twitter, and Facebook and will no doubt be in every UK newspaper tomorrow.

Charles Kennedy, the Ex Liberal Demarcate leader, died today at the age of fifty-five. His disposition, demon, bête noire, and now his executioner: drink. You have long been an admirer of Kennedy but saw the look of alcohol in his face. The tired look, the look that replaced the fresh faced MP of the early 1990’s, puffy blepharitic eyes, and cheeks of excess and late sessions. The look of superior intellect, confused, influenced but contaminated by another, higher in ABV, contributor to his thoughts. Other intellects and academics have argued that they have expanded their thinking by its presence, it might be so but by God Charles could run rings around his political contemporaries, with or without it.

Live hard and die young? But be remembered for your spirited repartee, banter and deep philosophical Claret formed opinion? God, it reads less convincing the next day.

That’s thrice on a page you’ve used the word ‘God’.

It’s a Habit. (And you will come back to God later).

Habit, like arriving home after work, late, having taken 6 hours to drive from London to Penrith, needing the toilet but needing to get home more. Even before the cistern has finished flushing the cork is pulled and the southern levels of stress are subsiding.

‘It’s a school night.’ She says.

‘Yeah, but I’ve been in my car since 5 o’clock and my heads still buzzing.’ You say. The pattern forming habit.

But it was different for Charles, and it’s different for people who do not have control, lost or otherwise.

There is a dichotomy with drinking. You like and enjoy a fine wine, you appreciate its balanced flavours with a meal. You have enjoyed a cognac and a good cigar, and felt the uplift of a Jaegermeister at the end of a long, steep, Austrian red.

But, you’ve also been on your hands and knees in the pantry, consumed with desperation at 2 o’clock in the morning, looking in the cupboard for anything vaguely alcoholic to feed the demon. Then, woken up on the sofa in the half light, the glass half full still in your hand, the demon has shit in your mouth and you despise it, and yourself.

What is the hunger and where does it come from? Why is there a craving to have another drink? Is it liquid armour against the pain, the loss, the regret, the guilt, and the anger? Do you have these emotions even though you haven’t lost anyone and you’re not grieving? It’s too late to ask Charles, so you sit there alone, 1.05am, everyone is in bed. You’ve been drinking for a week without a break, but never during the day time, is that the next step in the race to the bottom?

Charles tried many times to control the demon, and failed. His son came along in 2005 and he was even more determined to give up his addiction, but failed again, permanently.

So God? It’s hard to remember, but you had a life before the 4th October 2013, you had a good life and in this madness you have spoken with ‘God’ to try to help understand where it’s all gone wrong. You had a perfect life; three beautiful children, a beautiful home, a healthy relationship, you have loved each other since you were kids, and you have always had decent, hard-working friends. Many of these things still remain in place, but without Dominic, none of it remains the same, including God, that’s if he ever had a place in your life.

You have always respected friends views and religious beliefs, and respected the church for its general pastoral care, but you have never been a believer of an omniscient being who created life and the earth in a few days. However you do believe in a sincere young man who promoted love, in a hostile world, who encouraged friendship and understanding in a war of cultures, and you believe sincerely, he was killed for his beliefs.

So why do we default to God in times of crisis? Either, asking him to help us out of the crisis, or usually more latterly, blaming him for not helping us and getting us into the
crisis in the first place.

Lapidus – Writing For Wellbeing

I’ve contacted Lapidus through my PhD research on ‘Creativity in the Bereavement process’ and have been invited to contribute my findings through a journal or blog, aimed at a relevant audience.

This is a fantastic organisation and charity that supports many areas in society including mental health and other social issues through…..Words for Wellbeing

Writing For Wellbeing

There is a growing body of research and evidence which supports the benefits of writing for physical and emotional health and wellbeing. The US social psychologist Professor James Pennebaker is at the forefront. His studies have shown that expressive writing can make you healthier and happier.

In the UK Dr Gillie Bolton, Research Fellow in Medical Humanities at Sheffield University, has based her practice and research around writing since discovering it’s potential for uncovering “the enduring self”. In her book The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writingshe says, “Writing is a means of making sense of experience, and of arriving at a deeper understanding of the self.” 

They have organised a full day at Chester University to celebrate their 20th Birthday, details can be found below……

Click here for details on the Lapidus Event


There are exciting workshops, talks,  performance and networking on offer at this year’s 20th Anniversary event at the University of Chester on the 14th May:

  • “You Have to Laugh…..Or Do You?” Marie Larkin introduces comedy writing for stress management…
  • “Learning to fly: Harnessing metaphor in reflective writing” with Anne Taylor, exploring ‘clean language questioning’ with reflective writing to identify personal metaphors…
  • Diana Hedges, author of ‘Poetry, Therapy and Emotional Life’, introduces “Bibliotherapy – a celebration!”…
  • “Courage to Be Me – Understanding the Mother – Daughter Relationship” with counsellor, life coach and poetry therapist, Charmaine Pollard…
  • “The Poetry Exchange introduces Poems As Friends” – Fiona Lesley Bennett combines readings, curated audio and discussion, to explore aspects of voice, deep listening and the spaces between the written and spoken word
  • Keynote speaker and founding Lapidus member, Cheryl Moskowitz, will offer insight into our writing for wellbeing journeys…
  • Keynote speaker Simon Poole, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Children’s Services at University of Chester, will condiser the tension between Creativity and Tradition, through songwriting (and song)…
  • There’ll also be the chance to perform your own work in the Open Mic, as well as to win inspiring reading in the Book Raffle!

Cinnamon Press update

Just to let you know, I made the final cut but I didn’t win.

The book deal has gone to…….

The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley.

Congratulations to Annika!!!

Stephen May (The judge) says of this novel:

“I liked the authenticity of the setting and the conflicts and misunderstandings between the characters. I learned about Tajikistan and the weariness of both the NGO workers and the local population was well captured.”

I’m absolutely delighted to get through to the finals with my first submission to a publisher and in my first competition.