Sunday, 14 December 2014

Who can we trust?

Just over a week ago, I met with a whistleblower. Let's call him Bill. Bill was or maybe still is, a police officer, who back in 2004 uncovered connections between VIP people in power and the systematic sexual abuse of children in care. The deeper he dug, the murkier the waters became. To his horror, his main witness suddenly died and his senior officers told him that funding into his investigations was to cease. He was advised to forget what he knew and move on.

Bill wore the expression of a man who knows such horrors he can barely sleep at night. He was jumpy, paranoid, with a pale pallor and rings under his eyes. Why did I meet him? I had discussed the  recent news of Theresa May opening an enquiry into the alleged abuse of children by a VIP paedophile ring with a police friend of mine. (May has yet to find anyone to chair this inquiry as both people she put in place have had to step down due to their 'establishment' links.... Will this inquiry be botched due to 'lost' evidence and witness accounts? Will it go nowhere like the 1984 dossier? Can we trust May to see this through to the bitter end??). My buddy casually mentioned an old colleague of hers - saying that he was disillusioned with the police and had been told to keep his mouth shut if he wanted to keep his job many years back. I asked to meet with him, hoping to persuade him to take his story to Exaro - the online newspaper that appears to be one of the only media outlets who actively want to cover this story. The mainstream media have barely touched it.

We talked for almost 3 hours, during which I broke down in tears. We were discussing an 8 year old child who went missing the day of the Royal Wedding in 1981. I was 8 that year too. His father was telephoned weeks after his son went missing, and told that he had been taken to the Elm Guest house, where he had been killed. Some of his remains were found a year later. No one has ever been charged with his murder.

I thought somehow, that talking to Bill, maybe writing up his story, would somehow contribute to the pressure that must be applied to seek out justice for these children. The tragedy is that many of the abused kids - now adults - have turned to drugs or crime as a way to obliterate all they have endured and therefore will be discredited witnesses. The most sickening aspect of this whole story is that those in power, those with links to the Royals, MPs, high up police and judges - they preyed upon the forgotten children in society: those whose parents had died, who had no one fighting their corner. They were used like pieces of meat. They had no one to tell.

Bill's story was a mixture of paranoid bizarre theories, truth, first hand evidence and suspicion. Therein lies the problem: so many people have hidden in the shadows - unable to tell their story so the only places they can turn to are the areas of the media which allow conspiracy theories to flourish. What is fact gets blurred with fiction and it is hard to know the real raw truth in it all. But certainly, the dossier written by Geoffery Dickins in 1984 and given to the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan, that was mysteriously 'lost' must come to light. Those who have spent years protected by their rank and connections, must now pay. They must be named and shamed. Operation Fairbank, Operation Midland have all been opened to try and get to the bottom of what happened at the Elm Guest House and Dolphin Square. But if the police have allegedly covered up these grotesque rings for years, what results will we get now? Just more cover ups? Or someone hung out to dry whilst others remain anonymous - having literally got away with murder - the murder of children?

The tentacles of this whole sickening operation are far reaching: government, police, media, social services, all complicit in the abuse of children. Those who kept their heads down for fear of losing their jobs are just as guilty. Anyone who doesn't come forward with what they know, is every bit as culpable as those who have blood on their hands.

There is nothing that upsets me more than the abuse of children. They are the most innocent and vulnerable members of society - none more so than those in care. Bill wants justice for them - the those whose voices have never been heard. For those who are brave enough to speak out, when years ago they never could. For those whose lives have been shattered because of the horror they endured. For their loss of childhood, for their loss of themselves.

Bill has a good team of journalists, supporters, charity bosses etc around him. Thankfully he is not a lone wolf speaking out about what he knows, what he has witnessed. He is passionate and determined - disgusted at those retired officers who only now are speaking out, NOW that they have fat pensions and security, do they spill the tragedies they knew of. He thinks they are cowards and I agree.

That night I took my 8 year old son swimming; as I dried his small frame I noticed how tiny he is. How fragile. I started to quietly cry at the thought of anyone harming a single hair on his head. That night I barely slept. I felt sick to my core. My stomach churned with all I had heard and I couldn't shake this overwhelming sense of sadness. Two good friends listened and helped me put all I had heard in perspective.

The next day Husband hugged me tightly and let me weep on his shoulder. I just couldn't comprehend the cruelty in the world, as cliched as that sounds. I didn't write up Bill's story - that is his to tell. I didn't lead him to any journalists - he has them ready and waiting. There was nothing for me to do. Except this. Share it on my blog. Ask anyone who knows anyone who ever was in care, who was ever abused, to speak out, get help - you will be believed. I hope that in 2015 these vile bastards get exposed and the punishments they deserve. May the victims get some resolution, some peace. It is the least they deserve.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Sober is the new Drunk

This may just be the smuggest post I have ever written.

I write this, sipping hot builders tea (obligatory bag still in cup) lying in bed, feeling damn fresh. It is unusual in the frantic festive season for me to feel this way. Normally I'm throwing water down my neck, my head pounding, a foggy mist of confusion settling across my brow; my stomach folding into knots as I hastily try and patch together the events of the night before: did I REALLY say that? Oh god, was I holding court? Did I throw shapes alone on the dance floor or drag the intern on to the floor by his tie? Is that vomit in my hair? Where is my other shoe? Fuck, is my phone in the taxi - panic panic - oh no, it is here - in my knicker drawer, where I carefully thought to place it at 2am.... etc. etc.

*Shudders at the memory*

You see all that alcohol - it does no good. Now you feel wonderful at the time, all buzzy and beyonce like. But then what begins as a mellow good feeling lurches into the blurry territory of 'must get as much down my neck as is humanly possible' (or the old 'one more for the road, one for the ditch') and before you know it, you have rocketed into tragic sad woman land. I have been there. MANY TIMES. I could write the book on drunken exploits. If only I could remember what happened.

But now I get to watch everyone else make twats of themselves: lumber around, drinks spilling everywhere trying to strike up conversations with strangers; getting smoochy with the office letch; raucously laughing that little bit too hard at their boss's jokes; dancing 'sexily' in a way that suggests they are about to have a seizure; boring folk rigid with another tale about how fabulous they are; unleashing bitterness at the cards life has dealt them; revealing their usually well-concealed jealousy at their best friend's career etc etc etc.

I haven't given up the booze completely. Dear god no. I am a mother - how would I cope without my little helper? More, that I am PACING myself through the Xmas marathon. Monday's comedy with Louise Omielan wouldn't have been as completely amazing as it was, had I been too hammered to fully appreciate her sharp observations. A Mums' Xmas gathering would have been a stage for me to humiliate myself with 'over sharing' had I not stuck to prosecco all evening. (Come to think of it, maybe telling my story of kissing a 17 year old who worked in a cookie store when I was 27** wasn't advisable.  But it could have been SO much worse...

I wouldn't have been able to recall all the lovely catch up convos I had with old colleagues at a leaving do, had I not been on the diet coke all night. If I get trollied on Sunday I won't remember all the fabulous jumpers Andrea will be sporting as he loses in the X FACK-TOR final... So sticking to the not-so-hard stuff actually enhances your evening's experience. For one thing, you can remember everything the next day - and you don't have to watch the episode of The Missing again, because ironically you missed most of it having consumed the guts of a bottle of red wine. (Also, you won't look at your phone and remember you found you had James Nesbitt's phone number from 11 years ago and decided to call it to check it was still a number - and then text him telling him how fabulous his performance was - only for him to ring you back wondering who the feck is calling him at 11:20pm on a school night... How you had to remind him of the time you and he got trashed until 4am and he escorted you home in a cab... Not looking like a stalker much at all. No).

It is cheaper, wiser and healthier to abstain. Ok, it is duller. I will grant you that. Alcohol is a social lubricant, making it easier to recall all the Facebook status updates you have read from the person standing in front of you - and you trawl through them, using them as conversation openers. It also helps if you are still there 20 minutes later, all update material used, tumbleweeds rolling past - because being pissed, you just don't see them. Sober, it all becomes like an episode of The Office.

The morning after is a whole new ball game. A clear head means work can be done; you happily guzzle down your nutri-bulleted shake bursting with spinach and flaxseeds without gagging at the first mouthful. You aren't standing in Waitrose, like someone on day release, blankly staring at the food aisles, thinking 'what did I come here for?' You aren't asking buddies/colleagues to fill in the blanks and then crawling under your desk to hide from the shame of their revelations. You aren't crafting apology emails and ordering flowers for your spouse who had to help you through the front door as you 'couldn't find' your key that was in your HAND, who then helped you undress, and eventually slept in the spare room as your alcohol fumes nearly knocked him out.

Nope, the slate is clean, your head is clear, a whole new day dawns without a well of regret opening up before you. Ahhh. Feels good. I may keep this up longer. Become horrifically smug and sanctimonious. Hold on, I think I'm there already. Must dash, my nutri-bullet is calling me.

(**HE TOLD ME HE WAS 20!!!!).

Monday, 8 December 2014

4 and Fabulous

The Diva turned 4. In true diva fashion she had 2 cakes - an Emmet from the Lego movie and a red velvet number. She had a party, shared, with a cute boy, and came home with more gifts than in Santa's sack. Also she found time to nip into the school fair and get her make up done, reindeer style.

Well, it's what every discerning fashionista will be sporting this festive season....

Thursday, 4 December 2014

All I want for Christmas....

Ho Ho Ho. Have you got your festive cheer on yet? Not sure I have - but December promises to be a pretty facking great month for many many reasons. Firstly Sproglette turns 4 on Saturday, so someone will be wired to the gills on sugar and racing around like a mad thing. And I don't mean the kid. Sunday is the Paddington movie (again, I think I am more excited than the children) and the annual tree decorating.

The week after is a mixture of nativity plays, leaving dos, Xmas drinks dos, a comedy night seeing Luisa Omielan, a 40th and a trip to the old X FACTOR final. If I am standing by next Monday, it will be nothing short of a miracle. I'm hoping by then, that with all the twinkly lights dotted about, plus enough mulled wine, I shall feel more Xmassy than Rudolph.

It has got me thinking what I want for Xmas - which is.... nada. Seriously. Husband is buying me The MOTH book (I went last night to this NYC originated story telling show and it was nothing short of brilliant - I laughed and cried in equal measure) and that is truly all I want. I hate all the consumer bullshit of Xmas - shouldn't it be about the food and cheer and love for fellow man, than about Jo Malone candles and fucking cashmere sweaters? Fuck buying gifts, bake someone cookies instead. (In truth my bestest gift of last year? My neighbour brought me an exquisitely wrapped box filled with her home made meringues - AMAZING. It meant far more than any perfume or trinket).

Now you may think I've gone a bit soft in the head - but after one particular story I heard last night at the fantastic Moth gig - I came away thinking that every day is special. A chance to do this one better. And how lucky we all are to have it.

So - my wish list for Xmas and 2015:

No. 1 I'd like all the friends I know who are struggling with trying to find work, or change careers, or make a bold move into a new field, to be able to take that flying leap. To get the promotions and jobs they deserve. There are so many wasted folk who are brimming with talent and yet never get to shine - and it is downright criminal. Let 2015 be their year - the one that changes everything.

No. 2 In a similar vein, I'd like all my single buddies - the ones who aren't on tinder shagging anything with a pulse - to meet someone. I know some AMAZING women (and two men) - all hot, funny, super smart and generous to a fault - and all are single. Yet I know many assholes who are taken... Odd. So I hope that at the book store, or while they buy Xmas gifts, or sing Old Lang Syne that their eyes meet with a handsome stranger and that is it - boom! I'm a romantic at heart, and in this cold weather there is nothing better than watching crappy films with someone stroking your hair.

No. 3.  I'd like any one of you that has read a single blog post this year of mine - or more, (and I thank you for it) and enjoyed it - maybe even chuckled, to dip into your pocket (I know I know, I'm ANOTHER person asking for money) and give as little as a £5 to this.  It is The Kids Company - and they want to give vulnerable children a Christmas. The film they made showing that to some kids, Christmas day is just another Thursday, is heart breaking. All donations will go towards The Kids Company creating a winter wonderland filled with toys, games, a Santa's grotto and a hot Xmas dinner. So, please, no matter what other charities you are giving to - please give to this one. It doesn't matter how little - but to those receiving, it is a lot. Thank you readers - you are a lovely generous fabulous bunch. X

No. 4 I'd like there to be some great writers' room, where writers can go and hot desk and chat like the one in New York. Because we don't have anything like it here in the UK - and writing is a lonely old business. I miss chin wagging with my old work mates - which was pretty much all I ever did at work - so I would like to have one of these pop up so I can work and then chat, work and then chat. Obvs more work than chat... *straight face*

No. 5 I'd like to continue to have good health all through 2015, and for all I know and love to have the same.

No. 6 There are too many news stories that make me feel frustrated and angry with their injustice and inhumanity - to pick just one to wish resolution for. I'm not religious at all, but I have private prayers and hopes - and I wish nothing but success for all those who are struggling to make a difference, who are campaigning and raising awareness to the plights of others.

No. 7 Finally, my only wish for myself is that the seeds I have sowed in 2014 - will bear fruit in 2015. That I'll continue to enjoy trips and dinners and afternoons and film dates and coffees and A LOT of cake with all of those I care about. My friends and family have been my heroes of 2014 - and sorry to break it to you lot, but I expect more of the same in 2015.

Feck me, if I aint feeling all festive and a bit misty eyed now. Now where's my Now Thats What I Call Christmas mix tape?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

All I want for Christmas.... are these Hobbs boots.

I can die happy, sleep easy and all the rest.

The worlds most perfect boots have been invented. Congratulation Hobbs - what a brilliant job. The said boots are calling to me - and I covet them more than ANY other item I have desired this year. Or maybe any year since I asked Santa for a Girls World in 1981 aged 8.  (I washed the model's hair and dried it - then found the instructions with 'DO NOT BLOWDRY HAIR OF TOY' after the event - when hair was more knotted than a seaman's rope and the toy was alas ruined, within 12 hours of it arriving. *Sighs*

Please look at these boots. If you are a size 39 do not buy them - that is my size. These boots say winter walks' and 'quality leather' and 'last forever.' They say, 'CM, this Xmas is a lean one, but with these, everything will be well in your world. You can walk over anything in them.' There is no hurdle that CANNOT be climbed in these beauties.

If only I were famous, I would ring up Hobbs - or rather my lackey assistant would - and they would persuade them to grant me the boots and I would wear them daily and shout from the rooftops about how fabulous they are. They are similar to a pair of Tory Burch ones that I mentioned in an Xmas blog of the past.

Anyway, I hope you lovely readers all get what you ask for. I shall content myself in this lean Xmas year, with great food and festivities - because that after all, is what it is all about.

Well, it is. Of course. It just would be even lovelier with these stars on my plates of meat. Ahhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Things I have learnt this week #367

No. 1 Gin is not your friend. You may think that a coupla doubles will simply mellow you into an evening, giving you that secure yet relaxed feeling of unwinding. Then you'll think a long evening on singles will increase the buzz BUT will still keep you safe. It won't. Gin is a mother's ruin for a reason: it RUINS you.

No. 2 Drinking said gin all evening when it is your first ever night out with the Mums from your daughter's nursery class isn't a good idea. The result is they get a FULL ON, undiluted CM experience: the one replete with holding court, making the cute barman admit that he once YEARS ago called you a MILF (gawd bless him) and demanding a lock in - until the cute barman is forced to offer you a round of free drinks the next time you come in - if you will only just LEAVE.

No. 3 The next day you will be unable to move, save for wandering in a daze towards your child's school reeking of booze and then stumbling onto your sofa, where you will remain, for a lost, soulless day when your head will swim and your eyes will water and you will feel violently ill if someone dares to offer you food of any kind. Damn them.

No. 4 Don't start listening to Serial one morning, because that day, well it will be spent doing NOTHING as well, save listening to Serial. All day. Because it is gripping, informative, frightening, shocking and goes at a faster pace than the road runner. Sarah Koenig is a master broadcaster and each episode I swing between 'is he innocent?' 'He MUST be guilty?' and everything in between. I am suspicious of Jay's story, I think Adnan Syed sounds utterly convincing - so he is either innocent of a total psycho - but which?

No. 5 Xmas isn't going to go away, even if you try to avoid it and it's twinkly hands. It is coming, like it or not, so start making those lists and face the fact you are going to haemorrhage money between now and January the 1st.

No. 6 A waiting email inbox never boils. :(

No. 7 There is nothing better in the world that hot chocolate with marshmallows. It is almost worth having winter to delight in eating hot choccy on a daily basis. By this rate I may well have a bigger belly than Santa by the 25th...

No. 8 Scrap number 6 - there IS something better than hot chocolate - it is buddies. (I am sober, but forgive me for this soppy moment). This year more than any other, I have appreciated my friends. My trips away with them, my dinners at their houses, them trundling to mine (often with kids in tow) and meeting me for movies or chat - you have all been absolutely scrumptious. Even those who have mainly been online chums - I thank you. This year would have been a cold lonely one, without all your cheer. This week a friend invited me to the theatre, another for Boxing Day and another is coming over to plot our Xmas day plans - our families joining together. This festive season promises to end on the same defining note of this year: me grateful for all the colourful, fun lot that enrich my days.

No. 9 Now imagine me on Gin. Imagine just how GUSHY I can become. You see Gin, it is not your friend. No matter how tasty and bitter and edgy it is. It hates you - even more the next day too. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Why shopping at Gap is anything but relaxing....

Confession: I worked at Gap for almost a year back in 1994-95. I won 'regional employee of the month' whereupon they tried to make me take a Gap voucher as my reward. Needing some Chanel foundation I refused and insisted upon a Fenwicks voucher instead. I knew my ACE steps (approach, close and end the sale) and shoplifting prevention: that folk tend to steal mainly from the fitting rooms and at the front of the store. Me, I know my GAP onions... so when I go back to the store, I expect the same kind of service with a cheery smile that I gave all those years ago. (Once, I got a woman who hadn't worn jeans for ten years, and was a size 22 plus, a fab pair of men's jeans and she tipped me a fiver in thanks).

So on Sunday I swung by Gap in Watford as my Mum had bought me a pair of jeans in Medium in Gap Belfast. Medium is UK 10-12 US 6-8 and I am UK 8-10 US 4-6. So they were too big. The store didn't have any in size small. (Although as small is 6-8 US 2-4 chances are my butt wouldn't have got into them). 

So I said, no worries, can you refund my Mum?

Gap said: Nope. As your Mum is in Northern Ireland and we can't put money on the card without the card owner there. 

I get that, so I said, can you give me a credit note and I will use it online to get the jeans I want? 

Gap said: No again.  The online company is different to the in store, so if we gave you a credit note you couldn't use it online. (Which is odd as Zara for example - if you take something back and they don't have it in the right size - refund you on a card that you CAN use online. Which seems a normal way to do things).

Ok, so can you order in my jeans and I can pick them up here? 

Gap said: No. We don't offer that service. 

So Gap - what can you offer me? 

Gap said: Well we can give you a credit note which you can use in other Gaps. 

Yes but I don't live anywhere near other Gaps, so that is useless to me... and what if all my local surrounding stores don't have the item I want in? Do I just spend my days driving from Gap to Gap in the hope of finding my jeans? 

Gap said: Yes pretty much. 

I said: Gap I would rather gauge out my eyes than shop in your store again. Instead I will now post said jeans back to my poor Mother who will have to go into Belfast again and take the jeans back. Meanwhile I'll go to Topshop who will give me superior service and I'll get a pair of jeans that will fit. 

Which I did. Moral of the story - for an unhelpful shopping experience, go to Gap. It sure aint what it was back in '95 (and your jeans wall sure aint folded like it was in my day).