Casual Nastiness? Let us resist hatred and hate crimes!

How can we, as a society, be so damned casual about hate crime? How can we casually turn the page on yet another vicious attack? It is time to stop thinking that it does not affect us because the victim comes from a minority group. It is time to assert our commonality, our connection. It is time to resist!

Yet again, and to my deep distress, I read of a violent and unnecessary hate crime – in this case perpetrated against two gay men, who did nothing more outrageous than wear colourful shoes (something I have often been ‘guilty’ of myself).

There is, quite literally, no excuse for this kind of mindless evil.

What has happened to the idea that we attack only as a form of self-defence? And that we think twice before doing even that.

Why is it that, to some people, another’s sexuality or gender orientation is seen as such a red flag that they go in, with metaphorical spears and other weapons, in order to taunt and then destroy the fellow human being standing, or walking, or lying, before them?

When I was twelve, I took a bus journey in to Oxford – and, foolishly as it turned out, sauntered up to the top deck. There I was met by a large group of unruly, and vicious, bovver girls. They objected to me, accused me of looking at them and put the boot in.

Aged thirty, I was sexually assaulted in the street by a stranger; the attack was violent and left me with extensive bruising and half a tooth gone. Since the man went on to attack another five women that night, albeit less seriously, it was clear, to me, that he was acting out of hatred – of women.

Those hate crimes – and others like them – make me empathise with others so attacked, and also opened my eyes early to a central truth: if someone wants an excuse to release their rage, they will create one out of nothing: a look, shoes, the gender of your partner, your voice, your accent, the length of your skirt, the colour of your skin, the god you pray to.

The truth? Abusers always choose to act the way they do. It doesn’t matter what their background is – though many try and wangle their way out of responsibility by citing a crap childhood or whatever – since others from identical circumstances grow up without this pathological need to inflict violence upon body or mind.

The truth? These hate criminals have opened the doors of their hearts to hatred, to bigotry, to lethal narrow-mindedness, to covert eugenics, to a Final Solution that wipes out anyone who is not like them.

In old-fashioned, Biblical terms, they have done a deal with the Devil, entered a Faustian Pact.

When a human being allows hatred to fill up the tank of his or her soul, so that the vehicle is running on that sinister juice, he or she has willingly given up a goodly percentage of our shared humanity.

A choice, not the result of trauma.

No one should have to walk in fear (as I still do at night; as many now do during the day) because of their colour, gender, sexuality or religion. No one should ever have to put up with hatred expressed through words, fists and feet and worse.

The answer – which may well lie blowing in the wind – is not to store hatred ourselves and take it out on yet another random group of people. The answer, as St Francis so wisely said in his famous prayer, is to sow love where there is hatred. By this, I mean parents and teachers and wise elders stepping up to the proverbial plate and teaching their young charges the lesson of love and acceptance, of harmony and respect for all, of tolerance and of our shared divine spark being far more important than the things that we allow to divide us.

Let us not attack others for their perceived differences!

Let us acknowledge and cherish true diversity!


Single Status!

I do not have a partner at present. Nor, to be frank, do I particularly want one! I am single, a boyfriend-free zone!

I think there is altogether too much emphasis on pairing-up regardless of quality. Those who do not have a partner are often pitied, censured, looked down upon. Their sexuality is called into question. They are, if female, regularly accused of being lesbians, or frigid, misandristic, humourless cows!

I do not hate men. I am not against relationships. I love sex. But I am having a pause. I am building my own strength, repairing the frayed parts, healing the wounds. I am anxious to avoid rushing desperately into the twosome situation on the rebound from divorce.

There is no disgrace in failing to have a partner. There is, I think, much empowerment to be had in making a conscious choice to put the a deux on hold for a indefinite period.

It is terribly easy to feel inferior and vulnerable when single. It is often very tempting to pick someone, anyone, in order to feel safe, socially acceptable and attractive. But these are not good reasons for having an intimate relationship – and, too often, the inherent desperation counts against true equality and fulfilment anyway.

I feel I need to find out who I am as a woman before I invite a partner into my life. I feel I need to get to the stage in which I am able to say, hand on heart, ‘I don’t need you; I want you!’ before embarking upon The Good Vessel Partnership once more!


A partner at any price is worthless! A man to hold on to, to drape over your arm, is little more than an accessory!

I’d rather wait for an equal than pay a King’s Ransom for an immediate street-value hit!



I have long had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with Facebook. There is much that is good about the site – and, with my son gadding about around the world, the Messaging service has been a life-line and the perfect way of keeping in touch.

But – and I am going to be honest here – if it weren’t for Lad’s absence, I would, by now, have quit Facebook altogether.

It attracts bullies. It attracts those who prefer to sneak in unseen and deposit a turd of a comment upon the clean duvet of one’s Home space. It encourages a culture of waspish nastiness because there is no central moderation and nobody actually has to talk the problem through face-to-face.

But, to me, most worrying of all is this: it creates an atmosphere of fear and oppression; a place where one is forever walking on eggshells; a board where moderate comments are despised and seen as weak or unsupportive; a place where many feel they cannot like or comment upon a status which goes against the needs and loudly blaring wishes of the dominant few.

It has become a space in which derogatory and personal comments – which most of us have been taught, from the earliest age, to keep to ourselves – are spat out in fiery abandon; in which sentimental memes are held threateningly out under our noses as something we must share or like in order to prove that we are true friends; in which people are too afraid to agree in public with views which are seen as moderate or calming; in which unfriending is used as a Sword of Damocles over the heads of anyone who dares to disagree with a ranting and nasty status.

It has become a playground of taunts and ganging-up and name-calling and back-turning. It has become the break-time asphalt on which primary school age children shout insults at one another and threaten to bring in their respective fathers if they don’t get their own way.

It has become a place in which personal grief and fear and disagreement, far from being handled privately between two friends, spreads out ever-wider and more viciously to encompass the entire friendship group, with sides being taken and metaphorical fights breaking out.

And it is so sad. Most people on the site have a social conscience and lament the way Leadership in the world deals with the lesser beings. Most of us can see that war-mongering and sabre-rattling only destabilises and does not achieve the world peace we all strive for.

Yet, on Facebook, this knowledge, this world consciousness, all too often gets thrown out of the window as we indulge in yet another pointless and personal scrap about something which would be better handled in person and off the internet.

I am not for one moment saying we should agree with everything another says, or that we should hold back from expressing our discontent if another has been rude and inflammatory; what I am saying is that such arguments should be conducted with the individual concerned, one-one-one, and not in front of a wider audience.

Once Lad returns, I think it likely I will keep only a minimal online contact going. Those I value I see anyway, and contact through text and face-to-face meetings. The nasty, brutish and long-winded element I neither need nor want, frankly!

Gratuitous Unpleasantness

I am getting heartily sick of ploughing through ever-more vitriolic and, in my view, inflammatory comments whenever I wander onto the Social Sites.

We all have our off days. We all feel angry, wounded and got at from time to time. We all read insult into innocent comments on occasions.

But, as I used to advise the children I taught (though in a different context), ‘Think before you ink…’

I am no whited sepulchre on this matter – and of this I am well aware: can rant for the Known Universe, though I do draw the line at going on to another person’s site with the intention of starting a quarrel.

But I object to the vituperative nastiness of some comments I read. I abhor the way certain individuals use another person’s post or status as a springboard to vent all kind of gratuitous, and often vindictive, spite.

We will not agree with everything we read online; even close friends will push our buttons – usually without meaning to – from time to time.

I want to say a couple of things about reaction. One, I think it essential, especially on Facebook, to adopt a privacy level that keeps egregious trolls off your most vulnerable comments and shares. If you are on a public setting, as I used to be, passing gits and twats WILL be attracted, like sharks to a fresh bleed, to your vulnerable wounds, and they WILL try to wind you up with their ridiculous statements.

Two, think before you put fingers to keyboard: is it likely that the individual whose status has so irked you had you in mind when he or she wrote it? If not, you have, it seems to me, two clear choices: one, read and pass on; two, if really upset by the content, message the individual and express your concerns PRIVATELY. It is much easier to sort these things out between two people than it is when the world and his wife also get involved in mud-slinging and bitchiness.

Ask if you are not sure – privately. Say to your friend, ‘I may have got the wrong end of the stick here, but it seemed to me that you were saying A/implying B, and it has hurt me…’

Of course we have to stand up for ourselves, and that includes on line; of course we have to discourage comments which are racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic. But I do not think that getting into a slanging match actually advances the cause one inch; in fact, I think many people, by having screaming arguments in public, actively set the cause they are defending back because they lose respect from those who would support them intellectually and put off those who have invested in their feelings emotionally. I would also suggest that we need to choose our friends more carefully, and with greater discrimination, if we find they are constantly impugning those matters which we hold close to our hearts.

I have, in the past, had people coming on to my blog site and screaming abuse at me. I have experienced insults and unkind comments on Facebook for no reason.

I would like to move on to a pertinent point: there is a big difference between a blog post, or status, in which one shares one’s current feelings (without attributing blame to anyone else) and the deliberate act of leaping upon another’s words and tearing them apart or insulting the writer or shrieking rabid imprecations, or accusing the writer of, in so many words, being in league with the Devil!

I keep a journal, as many of you know, and I use it to filter out the most explosive aspects of my immediate mood. If, to give you an example, I read an offensive comment on line, I will generally write about my reaction in the journal first – and, once I have calmed down, either ignore the comment or write a reasoned and non-inflammatory response. In other words, I do not go looking for a fight!

I will only take more rigorous action (Spamming, for example) if the individual has a long history of similar ‘attacks’ or has threatened me out of the blue.

I’ll say it again: If you are continuing to receive unwanted and horrible comments, adjust your privacy settings. If you go looking for a fight, you may well find it whirls out of control and causes collateral damage. Use your brain to temper the immediate emotional response – and save your powder for battles that really matter!

Think hard about your definition of ‘friend’. Think about the various truisms involving quality versus quantity! Unfriend as required!

Address people personally and privately if your toleration level has reached its limit. After all, the messaging system has been set up precisely for that purpose!

Blogging and broadcasting!

Our much-loved, and widely-known, Town Crier, David Greenway, has ventured onto the Blogosphere! Here is his first post: a fascinating insight into the world of Town Crying!

Town Crier Tales

Yesterday was an eventful day in more ways than one!

It all began with a visit to my good friend Ali, who is an accomplished blogger.  I had often read and enjoyed her fascinating and thought-provoking blogs. I used to marvel, wide-eyed and mouth wide open, at how many people were following her writings in so many far-off lands.  I’d  often wondered about writing a blog myself, to share my varied and enjoyable experiences at being a Town Crier and then I used to laugh to myself at the thought that “surely, no one would ever want to read about them anyway!”  I’ve shared a few experiences on Facebook before now, but I’d often felt the need to have a medium that was a little more expansive, shall we say, with the prospect of reaching a slightly wider audience, like……The World! GULP!  (As a radio amateur, it has to be said, I always got a huge “buzz” whenever I…

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Blame and silence…

I do not find lack of conversation confronting when with another, and am quite happy to share silence with a friend – but silence at a distance, lack of reciprocal communication – especially if it is allied with some form of falling-out or blame – turns me to petrified stone.

It is terribly hard for me to cope at such times – which is why I am trying to face up to it.

Punitive silence is, as I have said many times before, a particularly effective and damaging form of control. It breeds a really sad and disturbing, though predictable, offspring: looking around, in frantic haste, to find areas of transgression; trying desperately to apologise for whatever it is that has caused the punishment this time – and, always, this absolute horror, even when the lack of communication has no basis in hostility, of having done something wrong.

I am used to being told that I am at fault – in everything. I am used to being asked, ‘What have you done now?’ in so many words. I am used to apologising and being punished. I am used to people turning their backs on me for ‘crimes’ real or invented.

But, most sinister and sorrowful of all, I am accustomed to taking the blame for other people’s abuse; I am used to being told I have deserved or provoked it – that standing up for myself and saying, ‘No…’ is an inherently hostile, and therefore punishable, act.

Let me share a typical example of an interaction that can set this cycle off: whenever I have to stand up to a dominant person, or in any way assert my own boundaries – and significant silence, whether deliberate or not, follows my show of courage.

Under such circumstances, I very speedily become frantic with pain and terror. Even though the adult self knows that standing up for my boundaries was the correct thing to do, the insecure little girl is desperate to grovel her way back into favour, to apologise (even though she was not at fault), to open communication once more by any means (because the silence is so hurtful and confronting).

But – to grovel for what? To apologise for what? Why should I do either? What my little child is suggesting is highly inappropriate. To grovel for being hurt? What the fuck?! To apologise for standing up for myself? What the fuck times twenty?!

I will typically start saying to myself, ‘Am I not even worth a text? An email? A phone call? What have I done to offend or upset Person A?’ and feeling so frightened and frozen that I can barely think.

This is the way I have been trained to respond. This is the direct effect of the Weapon of Silence applied with a vicious swish round the back of my mind time and time again. This is my Achilles Heel. This is what can bring on a panic attack almost immediately.

So now I am facing this monster of the mind too. I am not expecting to overcome it, not immediately. But I am hoping that, by looking at it, I will, eventually, be able to see it reducing in size, potency and menace.

My problem is this: trust. How, after an extended punitive regime, can I know that a silence is benign? How can I let go of my frantic need to apologise just in case I have done something wrong?

How, in a word, can I tell the difference between genuine busyness in life and malignant ignoring?


Breaking Glass: Shattering Shock and Foggy Mind…

Yesterday, I had to break my car’s passenger window because my keys were locked inside. This was done safely, with the help of an RAC man – but the whole thing triggered bad memories…

Rain wept, shedding tears I could not, frozen, as I was, in the familiar daze of terror and foggy-mindedness.

The metallic implement – a thin bar which seemed, at first sight, too light for the job – was clenched in my right hand. Scowling sky looked down upon the scene: an orange RAC van; a short mechanic, bearded and bested by my car, unable to gain entrance after sixty long minutes and a downpour of Biblical proportions, scowled; a group of friends, fresh from filming, sheltered under a giant tree.

I lifted the weapon, struck a tentative blow to the lower right hand side of the passenger window. Hitting harder, I tried again. Nothing but the resonance of rain and a tightening of my throat.

On the third stroke, with a shattering shock, window pane disintegrated into greenish shards of glass. Tinkling fragments crunched onto the car park’s asphalt; a parabola of prisms plummeted floor-ward – and, as I found later, lodged in window frame’s deep crevices.

Friends stayed, helped, texted and messaged…

…so why was my mind cloaked so muzzily in the foggy cloth of earlier times?

Why did that needful impact of metal on glass force me backwards in time to a blindingly bright October early morning and the shunting, cracking, airbag-exploding collision, in a narrow lane, between me (with dog in boot) and a huge lorry, the force of which drove my car into the hedge? Why, in the misty mindedness that followed, did my mouth fill with the ghost of blood from a bitten tongue?

Was it the sound? Was it the failure to connect via phone? Was it the memory of the fury that attended that earlier crashing of vehicle? Was it something far more difficult to define? Was it the sense of threat that came to be associated with all such incidents and the way my mind wrapped itself in comforting fog to cope?

I did not cry. Not then. Not later. One of my friends bought tarpaulin and covered the gap. Another hugged me. Others offered help.

I, petrified on too many levels to discuss here, drove home and went into practical mode: from the time-triggered miasma of fear, I hoovered up the glass, tidied the car inside, made phone calls, the sharpness of my immediate actions contrasting painfully with the soggy and hidden marshland surrounding the lake of sorrow.

But the violence of that act, the tinkling disintegration, the invasive nature of it all, triggered a cracking, a scattering of pieces, a severance – and the mind’s need to protect by both blanketing and shutting down.

Note: on the purely practical level, my insurance will deal with the glass; no one was hurt and my friends were incredibly kind and supportive.  I wrote this piece more because of what it triggered: petrifying fear which, attributable to too many ‘windows’ in my soul being forced open in the past, has left hard scars.