No smoke without fire?

Hi there, it’s been a while since I posted anything here so this is long overdue…

When I was 15 I had a friend called Janice who was the same age, she’d smoked regularly since the age of 11 and started me down that road by insisting I light one for her. I held it out and struck a match to it, but she said I had to put it in my mouth and suck, and she laughed when I did so and almost choked. After that she kept literally shoving them into my mouth while we rode the bus or walked down the road or went for an ice cream, until I eventually caught the habit. 15 was younger then than it seems to be now and although I didn’t really want to do it at all, I also didn’t know how to simply and firmly say ‘no’. Janice lived with her mother and an older brother who both smoked, so I guess it came ‘naturally’ to her. Her mum was always at work and there were packs lying around her flat that she’d help herself to. It also wasn’t something that was frowned upon then either, even buses had ash trays and there were smoking cars on trains and there were no age restrictions on who could buy them. I remember as a kid there was always an ash tray on the doctor’s desk and people smoked freely in the waiting room. Most public places catered for smokers and had ash trays, they looked equally at home in a surgery waiting room then as a pile of magazines. Smokers weren’t demonized and somehow non-smokers managed to live with that without giving that pretend cough to voice their displeasure. I even had a hospital stay once when I had an ashtray beside my bed.

ashtray

Even though I stopped smoking when pregnant I admittedly had one cigarette a few hours prior to Shem’s birth, since it wasn’t going according to plan. There was a designated room – full of new and expectant fathers puffing away – these rooms of course no longer exist. At the time I was very grateful for that facility not wishing to be far from the labour ward. Even when the smoking bans came into effect there was still a smoking room at the airport, granted it was a bit of a filthy hole full of broken chairs and everyone in there looked and acted like a miserable sinner but it was there in my hour of need. I was about to fly trans-Atlantic for the first time and due to an incident two days before there was heightened security at the airport, which made me more nervous about the flight. Now of course smoking rooms are history and smokers are simply ‘the scum of the earth’.

fags“As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake.”
- Mark Twain

Well I’ve given up a few times over the years, for a few months at a time and not without discomfort and putting on loads of weight from the extra comfort eating. Each ‘break’, for that’s what it was, ended with me falling back into the habit again and accepting that I was an ‘addict’ that I had serious trouble facing life without nicotine. I sought help and the doctor prescribed me patches, which I agreed to try, even though we both knew that I’m allergic to plasters.  Leaving one on my arm for any length of time caused an infected skin rash and it was back to the drawing board. Then I tried nicotine gum and apart from not being fond of the habit or of looking like I’m chewing the cud, it also made my poor old teeth quite loose and tasted foul in the bargain. I found the nose sprays so harsh that they burnt the lining of my nose, making it very sore and by then I was fed up and all out of ideas, resigned to a life of being ‘anti-social’ and smoking.

lighthouse

Electronic cigarettes began to surface a few years ago, even though the idea at first seemed preposterous. It took me a long time to even consider trying one and I didn’t know anyone who had. Then when my friends in the New Orleans band EyeHateGod came to town in August 2012 and I noticed that Gary Mader, their bass player, was using one and I spoke to him about it. I said I thought they looked a bit weird but he didn’t care how it looked since it was keeping him away from smoking and doing a good job of it. I was intrigued at this point and thought again about giving up smoking, thinking they were designed for that purpose. I didn’t try them then but instead decided to go from smoking cigarettes to smoking a brand of roll-up tobacco that sounds like it’s made by Native Americans, although I’m not sure that’s the case. I did figure however that at least there weren’t all the extra additives that you get in ready-mades. I was still very much in denial, as far as I was concerned I wanted to smoke and I enjoyed it. I didn’t like roll-ups at all at first, and didn’t care for the pity you see on the face of cigarette smokers because they think you can’t afford ‘real’ ones, but after a few months I got used to the taste and finally learned to badly roll my own. I was surprised that if I smoked a normal cigarette after that that it really dehydrated me, something I hadn’t noticed before when smoking them all the time. After that I stuck to my roll-ups and the ready-mades went by the wayside, so I’d made slight progress. I did notice that a friend who managed to give up cigarettes for a while had a lot less wrinkles than the last time I’d seen her, so I think there could be something in that dehydration thing.

bottle water

August 2013 came around and the band rolled back into town, as usual on a beautiful summer day. I was both impressed and surprised to see that Gary was still smoking his electronic cigarette. I was intrigued and talked to him about it further and that’s when I finally understood that rather than taking a long time to give up smoking, he’d actually found a nicotine delivery system without the combustion and resultant toxic smoke. That really made me stop and think because while I’d tried several times over the years to stop smoking, I also found it virtually impossible while not being able to live in a cave somewhere for a year so I could rant in private and throw rocks at the walls. It was obviously the nicotine I was addicted to and it was interesting to me that I could get that without the harmful chemicals in the smoke. Even with the desire to stop and myriad reasons to do so, life seemed to be missing that vital ingredient for me personally without nicotine. When Gary offered me a puff on his e-cig I was surprised to find the taste of it quite acceptable and the effect similar to smoking.  I was now more interested and thought seriously about looking into electronic cigarettes.

The same night me and the kids also spent some time before the gig chatting in the park with EyeHateGod’s drummer Joey LaCaze. It would be the very last time we saw him. Two weeks later the news came that Joey had died from respiratory failure, on the same day I stopped smoking tobacco and had decided to go over to e-cigs. That was difficult, as I just wanted to reach for a smoke to help deal with that news. I decided that in his memory I’d stay with the change and try to take better care of my own lungs, since Joey was also an asthma sufferer like me. I think in many ways it helped me to stick with it, even thought it was hard at times.

shem joey(I love this picture of Shem and Joey in the park the last time we saw him. Joey was such an amazing person, so humble and so full of energy and a really great drummer. He was full of life and warmth and always had a smile on his face. A huge loss to his band-mates and NOLA family, and a tough act to follow. Rest in Peace Joey, you will always be loved, remembered and missed.)

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

-Mark Twain

… Since the gig and the chat with Gary I’d done some research about e-cigs, and found some good forums out there full of people who are happy to help those curious or interested.  It’s very easy to be swayed by advertising but when you ask the people using the products themselves they’ve often found the pitfalls or bonuses, having tried out the products themselves, saving you an unsuitable purchase. Reading about ohms meters and winding your own coils and things like that seemed a little high-tech for me, so I started with something that was similar to Gary’s, looking much like a plastic cigarette with an LED on the end. I remember wanting the orange one, perhaps I still wanted to kid myself it was a cigarette. Eventually I was happy with the green or blue LEDs because when I thought about it, I liked that it was obvious that I wasn’t smoking where I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to. For a little while it was enough for me to make the adjustment, which I already knew wouldn’t be easy, but I was committed. I was determined to make a change. Sadly the cartridges I bought that screwed onto the battery end seemed only capable of three or four good tasty puffs before they were spent. It’s possible that I inadvertently bought some fakes but they were from a local official distributor so I doubt it.  I had to face the fact that I had been what’s known as a heavy smoker and a little puff now and then wasn’t quite enough for me.  The cartridges were costing £10 for five and didn’t give me enough satisfaction for even one whole day!  I can only assume that the ones on sale in America do a much better job than any I came across here.

opengate

I was soon climbing the walls again and spending as much, if not more than on smoking, which is not a good incentive for the smoker, but as I said, I was at least committed. I kept it up because I was looking for an answer and I felt determined that after 44 years of being an asthmatic smoker that I was going to find some kind of alternative and kick the smoking habit. Of course e-cigs are neither intended, nor marketed as a smoking cessation device but to people like myself who have spent more years smoking than not, an alternative way of getting nicotine by vapour really appeals.  I’m pleased to say that I haven’t smoked a cigarette since that August day last year.

egot

Next I went onto an EGO-T CE4 pen-type setup like the one above, which is a rechargeable battery on one end, bigger than the plastic cigarette type and with longer battery life. These have a replaceable heating coil and you add the e-liquid, or juice to the tank, where it’s drawn up through a wick. The clear bit is called a ‘clearomizer’, which I prefer to call a ‘juice tank’ – the coil heats the juice to make the vapour.  With the help of available information on the forums I realized I wasn’t the only one tasting plastic with my setup, so then I invested in a Kanger Pro Tank II Mini with a pyrex body and stainless mouthpiece and that was a vast improvement.  The mouthpiece on the Kanger Protank 2 mini is also smaller and perhaps more fitting of a lady. It came with an adapter so it still fitted all my EGO 510 thread batteries. In the UK you have to be sure to buy your coils and accessories from a reputable vendor as there are a lot of fakes out there and they’re very good copies in all but performance. Even some sites selling e-juice seem unable to make it consistently, which is slightly worrying regarding the reported nicotine levels as it comes in different strengths from zero through low to medium and high. I’ve been on the medium but at some point will move to low. I found one vanilla flavoured juice I really liked but when I purchased large quantities of it what they sent was nothing like the small bottle I’d bought and seemed to burn easily and turn dark and misty, even with a new coil in my setup.  I’ve never been back to that vendor and there are plenty to choose from.  I now have my ‘go to’ places for different things, I like Liberty Flights for juice, theirs are consistent and fairly cheap. Most of the sites have 10% or 15% off voucher codes when I have time to look around for them, including Liberty Flights.  I am sad however that they’ve decided they’ll be discontinuing my favourite ‘Hotel Tobacco’ flavour soon.

dion in parisDion in Paris

The best e-juice I’ve ever tasted was one that Dion bought on a day trip to Paris – Noisette flavour at a vendor called NoSmoking, that was lovely and not too sweet, I’m not a fan of the sweet ones but the taste of hazelnuts was delicious.  Apparently the vendor sold many different brands and we’re not sure which that one was, it had a turquoise lid and if anyone finds out which company makes it, please do let me know.  It was so good to add a little of a hazelnut flavour to my Hotel Tobacco and I can’t find anyone that sells it here. I’ve recently tried Almond flavour from one vendor as a lover of marzipan and all things almond but haven’t yet detected the taste of almonds in it anywhere. The Peanut Butter flavoured one I tried recently tasted more like old hot dog sausages! There’s a lot to learn but if you have endless hours there are lots of videos on YouTube.  I prefer having things explained in text myself but it’s all out there if you should want to look around.  All I can say is that it has been worth it to me personally to be free of the smell of smoke from my clothes and my home, plus I won’t have that yellowing paintwork everywhere needing to be redone all the time, another bonus. I recently had an almost relapse when going through some serious stress, perhaps it didn’t help that my EGO batteries were getting ineffectual as they generally last around six months before needing to be replaced. That was when I treated myself to an Innokin iTaste VTR from Love-Vaping, the best site I’d yet come across for hardware, they seem to beat others hands down in price, while selling the real deal. With this baby all’s well again.

itaste-vtr-army-green-e-cigarette-advanced-kit

While the VTR is a big heavy beast, and probably a ‘man’s vape’ it does deliver the goods and is suiting me very well. I feel satisfied by it, a few puffs of my VTR feel the same as a whole cigarette did last year. It’s a masterpiece of engineering and feels solid in my hand, there is also something comforting about it. It takes rechargeable batteries, so I can take a spare one in my pocket if need be. As there’s no fire involved in any of these setups you can generally vape if you go to a pub or a club. When it’s raining outside it’s not much fun to be stuck on the pavement like a kid on the naughty step, it’s even worse when they make you stand behind a barrier in a six foot square, shoulder to shoulder with several others, unless of course you like being herded. I do miss the random stranger conversations of the smoking area, since smokers are often sociable people, but at the same time I no longer cough non-stop and my sense of smell has improved too.  I’ve had asthma since I was a kid so I can’t say my chest will ever be wonderfully clear, but I’ve definitely seen a big improvement and I’m sure I must smell much better too. I also don’t yak up that black stuff after cleaning my teeth any more and the hand to mouth thing is catered for with this setup, I have my metal nipple when I need some comfort from life’s harshness.  The hand to mouth thing isn’t present with the patch, gum or spray delivery systems and I think that’s probably an important part of why I find vaping works better for me.

train

In an ideal world, we’d all be so happy and calm and jolly that none one would feel the need of stress relief of any kind, be it smoking, drinking or anything else. The pressures that life dumps in our laps at times can make it difficult to find the will power for some of us that others seem to claim as their birthright. Perhaps one day I’ll find that I no longer need nicotine, I kind of hope so, but until then I’m glad I’ve managed to move into a smoke-free life, I think it’s a step in the right direction. Having said that, I’m not adverse to a bit of passive smoking now and then as a Rock ‘n’ Roll memory and I fully intend to never be the person who used to smoke that demonizes smokers, even if I no longer inhale. Thanks Gary ;).

And Love to you all.
Soo xXx :)

UPDATE:  The Innokin iClear30s tip that came with my Innokin iTaste VTR has recently started leaking and I can’t work out why, or where the juice is getting out.  I think either the coils I bought were faulty or the tank itself has an issue.  As I got fed up with having to wash my sticky hands all the time I’ve purchased a Kanger Pro Tank 3 from IdealVape, which fits my VTR perfectly and it really is an improvement, not just because it doesn’t leak e-juice.  The mouth piece on the Kanger is so much more comfortable than the iClearS30, because it’s just that bit smaller it just gives a more pleasing experience I find.  I don’t like the idea of having to remove the entire thing from the VTR when re-filling with liquid but needs must.  I might just have to get another setup at some point that I can carry easier in my pocket, I keep hearing about the Cool Fire and might look into that at some point, and keep my VTR as my ‘at home’ vape, like pipe and slippers.  Very pleased with my Kanger Pro Tank 3 and I believe I could even get an ego battery to use with it if I so desired.  Just remember to check before buying that the accessories you choose all fit together and I wish you happy vaping should you go down that route.

Update  2: My VTR is not really hitting the spot anymore, since I bought a pack of coils that made the resistance stupidly high, the whole batch seemed faulty and it hasn’t performed properly since then, even though I’ve bought new coils from a reputable vendor. On the other hand, I bought a Cool Fire 1 from Vapour Room, as it’s less heavy and more portable than my VTR and I highly recommend Vapour Room, since when it stopped working they repaired it for me in a whirlwind two days, by which time I had it back fixed. Now I’m not sure I’d buy from anywhere else because not only is their customer service excellent, but every purchase comes with a discount card included and I really do feel like a valued customer, even if some of their prices are slightly higher than others, there’s the added security that their products are all official and that they take responsibility when things go wrong, which not all vendors seem to do.  As for my new favourite juice supplier – that’s TrueVape.co.uk, who sell 100% VG e-juice that doesn’t cause any allergic reaction. Almost a year has passed now and I haven’t had one sneaky puff of a cigarette, I never thought I’d get this far. I’m in no hurry to give up nicotine at the moment, one step at a time I think ;).

Soo xXx

PS: This is not intended as an advertisement or to encourage you to take any action of any kind, that would be your own choice. What I’ve written is merely my own opinion and experience as a lifetime smoker who has struggled to give up the habit. I have as yet seen no health problems myself directly related to my vaping habits and have seen a few improvements. ASH, who are the anti-smoking body have an interesting view of electronic-cigarettes in this 2013 briefing : http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_715.pdf.

You may comment below. Generally the button is somewhere in the region of the tags. If anyone out there who uses Word Press knows a way to get a better ‘comment’ button than I have, then let me know.  Thank You x

I may not agree with what you have to say…….

“I may not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” ~ Voltaire

 This is a slightly awkward subject for me to broach – considering the fact that some may assume me to be the person they might have read about, or assumed I am  (Remember that to ASSUME = makes an ASS of U and ME!).  The person I was, and more to the point – am now, may be quite different from expectations, although since this subject does appeal to my dry sense of humour, I’m going to have a bash at it…

Someone left a comment on my Facebook page recently that was caught by the ‘Profanity Filter’.  While it was an intelligent, valid and reasonable comment, related to the subject matter in my status, it was unfortunately interspersed with some – dare I say – rather unnecessary swearing.  Now swearing as such doesn’t particularly bother or offend me, but it isn’t just me who’s reading the page.  Most of us do it, or if we don’t – we know someone who does and when I really think about it, I myself know a few who don’t indulge very often.  I readily admit to rising to the occasion myself now and then, either in jest or frustration, I can’t say though that I’ve ever thought more of a person, or been more impressed by them for the simple reason that they swear, nor would I expect anyone to be impressed by me for that reason either.  There are still some who find it quite intimidating when they are around those who swear a lot, what’s ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ for one, is not the same for another.  There are even some people who like nothing more than to make harsh judgements about others for the slightest reason – and quite frankly, if nothing else – I’m not interested in hosting any cat-fights.

cat“If we can manage to refrain from harming others in our everyday actions and words, we can start to give more serious attention to actively doing good, and this can be a source of great joy and inner confidence.” ~ Dalai Lama

I don’t want to appear to be judging anyone, of course what you want to do and how you want to do it is entirely up to you.  If my wants and needs are different to yours that doesn’t have to be a problem, since we are all human on the one hand and therefore the same, as we are unique on the other and therefore different.  While ‘birds of a feather flock together’ there are also a few ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagulls’ out there if you get my drift – sometimes to lift yourself above your own circle of life can bring a new and refreshing perspective and help toward seeing the bigger picture.  What I would like is to have a good mix of people from all walks of life and of all ages - from young to old – feeling comfortable with each other on the page.  I think we could build a few bridges and get some interesting and different perspectives if we step outside of our usual group of associates occasionally and that often involves tolerance of others who think differently.  I don’t feel it’s necessary to have anyone at all feel uncomfortable because of any overly colourful language that they may misinterpret in some way or take personally.  We are all on our different roads in life and have a varying shade of moods and emotions, I fully understand this but would be grateful if we could all express in a considerate way where possible.  I’m fully aware that life has moved on somewhat since I was a youngster, who got a clip round the ear for just saying the word ‘fart’, but still ;).  What I want is an easier life, with less, rather than more conflict, I’ve had my fair share of that already.  I like to think we all want to feel understood or soothed now and then and a little bit of the right kind of communication can lift our day up to new heights, or make us feel less alone.

beachJust to illustrate, I was introduced to someone last year, let’s call him ‘Random’, whose praises were sung to me by the person who introduced us.  Random was forgivably too young to know anything about me, and I was a little surprised when his conversation included an expletive of one kind or another after almost every word, while he managed to be saying very little (if at all) else.  Later, the person who introduced us apologised for his behaviour and explained that Random had said he hadn’t intended to offend me in any way, that in fact he thought he was showing some sort of reverence to me during his (one-sided) conversation, and had said in his defence: “I just did my homework, I thought I was approaching it based on what I read that Punk was all about”.  I’m not sure where he got the idea that Punk was about how many swear words you can fit into a sentence – but let’s say it was new to me ;).

 “I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people’s emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons. Because words soak up emotional connotations and are processed involuntarily by the listener, you can’t will yourself not to treat the word in terms of what it means.” ~ Steven Pinker

 rainbow

I like the interactions I have with people online, and far be it from me to tell anyone how to be, or what they can and can’t say, if this upsets or offends you – GOOD! (just kidding!).   I merely want to let you know that your comments on Facebook will not be seen if you use swear words in your posts.  Thank you for your understanding, so let’s interact – but never mind the bollocks ;).

“Cursing is invoking the assistance of a spirit to help you inflict suffering. Swearing on the other hand, is invoking, only the witness of a spirit to any statement you wish to make.” ~ John Ruskin

You may leave a Comment below.  @}—>—   Soo xXx

A True English Gent…

It seems like the only time I’m inspired to write a blog is to talk about love, life or death – sometimes all three at once – this entry is no exception. Sometimes we all need to talk, even if it seems like no one is listening. I find that for me, that writing is often better than talking. Sometimes it feels like a magical process and others it haunts me and dogs my steps when all I want to do is forget the thought entirely and banish it from my mind. My opinion is that writing is first and foremost done for the benefit of the one doing the writing, particularly when the thoughts become too loud not to be heeded. It’s not imperative that someone reads it either because it’s like holding a captive bird in your hands – then lifting them up to let it go – I’d much rather let it go than smother it. Then it’s free to fly where it will, whether or not you see it again. Yes, I’m sure you guessed by now, I am thoughtful and these thoughts once again want flight.

Don Cornwallis young“Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years” ~ Richard Bach

I’ve been thinking about a certain someone a lot lately, someone who made a lasting impression on me long, long ago. As long as I’ve been online I’ve often typed his name into a search engine late at night, hoping to find a clue about where he might be and how to get in contact again. I was thinking how great it would be to talk over the times we shared and catch up with all that’s happened in our lives since then. There have been a few people in my life that I could describe as ‘special’ to me, and mean it in the highest and best sense of the word. Some people are just on our wavelength, they are ‘our people’ and we never need to explain who we are to them because they already instinctively know. He was one of those. When I was on MySpace a few years back and anyone contacted me that I knew around the same time I’d ask if they remembered him, hoping that someone could help me to find him – but it wasn’t to be. He was someone that I felt close to from the moment we first met, even though I don’t recall when or where that was. I do know that there was no asking of mundane questions and no awkward silences. There were no ‘what do you do?’ type conversations (as if that ever works when it comes to getting to know what a person is all about). When he came into my life he was comfortable to be around and it was just as if he’d always been there. He sat equally well in my mind and my heart along with everyone and everything I loved and respected – he felt like home to me. I don’t often connect with people to the extent where I feel they really ‘get’ me, yet I knew he did and that counted for so much. He was there in the back of my mind ever since, even though I had no clue where he might be, or what he was doing. He was one of those people that I knew I’d never forget.

We used to go to the same clubs before punk happened but everyone I asked about him either hadn’t known him or hadn’t even heard of him, which I found strange, although he was quite a private person and I related to and understood that because I was too. If people want to share the secrets of their heart with you they have to feel comfortable about it and no amount of prodding and poking will make it happen any quicker,  yet with Don I just felt we were cut from the same cloth. He would confide in me about many things he said he couldn’t talk to anyone else about. There was a streak of sadness that lay just under the surface of his easy-going, charismatic exterior, I knew it was there of course and he knew I knew, but he was okay with that.

In those days we were both young, I was a little bit more crazy than I am now and was unafraid, also unknowingly beautiful,  while he was very gentle and kind, also charming and very handsome. It’s funny how you realise the value of what you had when it’s gone; it’s true on all levels of existence from your looks to treasured things and people. Whenever I spoke his name it was always with a kind of reverence as I remembered how we were such close friends and that we instinctively knew things about each other before speaking about them, we just had a connection. I’d always refer to him as ‘my Don’ – how I’ve missed that particular friendship over the years and what it felt like to just be understood by someone.

For a time we managed to meet up, or run into each other when we least expected to, despite the fact that we had no Internet or mobile phones, which make it so much easier for people to stay in touch now. We confided what we thought of as our deepest and darkest secrets to each other. We laughed a lot too and there wasn’t one uncomfortable moment in any of the times I spent with him. We both understood only too well what a curse it could be that people found us attractive, we talked about how some people preyed on you and others didn’t care if you had a heart or a mind – the attraction was purely physical for them. They also sometimes acted as if they were doing you some kind of favour by pursuing you, even though you didn’t want them to. We had similar experiences, at times women threw themselves at him, treating him like meat, then other men became jealous of his charm and good looks. For my part I’d met enough women who wanted to sleep with my boyfriends or step into my shoes in any way they could in some kind of one-upmanship that I could never understand or relate to. There was great comfort for us both for a while in the beautiful friendship we had that knew no ties or regulations and expected nothing.

“Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better”  ~ William Shakespeare

Two days ago I got a message from an old friend I used to work with, who now lives in America. He said that Don had died peacefully in his sleep, succumbing to liver cancer. It had happened last month and I was stunned to have finally found him – but too late. It was tough to discover that he’d gone to live in America in the early 80s and that all this time I had been looking for him on the wrong continent! Not only that but he actually did have a presence on the internet, having built up quite a reputation for building motorcycles, which earned him the title of ‘The English Don’. Once I was armed with this information I suddenly got several search engine results just from putting the word ‘English’ before his name, frustratingly it was something I would never have thought to do before. It’s easy to forget that being English in America actually means so much more than it does here. I read interviews and blogs and magazine articles that filled in many of the blanks about his life journey. He was briefly the drummer for an early incarnation of Levi & The Rockats and it was during that time that he first went to live in New York. After that he teamed up with ‘Indian Larry’ for a time and was famous for building motorbikes, particularly the legendary ‘Babylon Taxi’ and later an updated version called ‘Babylon Taxi II’. It makes me sad to know that I’ll never be able to tell him how I’d searched for him for years and how unforgettable he was. Don had married his wife Juud just two days before his death, my heart goes out to her.

RIPDonGKM

(photo of English Don Cornwallis with Babylon Taxi – borrowed from GKM Magazine (Greasy Kulture).

Don Cornwallis was a real gentleman and a gentle soul, it was not surprising to learn that he was loved and respected by so many people. It seems his talents also earned him a real respect from the biker community and everyone who has written about his death has done him justice. His life was a series of twists and turns and I was sad to read since his death that he at times battled with depression and at one point became homeless after returning to London. I wish I could’ve found him then and offered him my sofa but it wasn’t to be – and wishing is for children. I have so much love for Don and as my way of marking his passing I wanted to share one of my treasured memories that cemented our amazing and unforgettable friendship. It was nice to be told that when my name was mentioned to him recently that he spoke of me as someone he had ‘a hell of a lot of respect for’, I hope he knew the feeling was mutual.

A moment in time with the Don

In the old days, I’d arranged to meet the Ealing boys I knew, including Don, at Ealing Broadway station. We were getting the train into town to go to The Roxy Club, which was by then just going through the motions, in it’s death throes prior to it’s final demise. It was just after my visit to the barbershop to have the middle of my head shaved. Frank and me arrived around the same time and he greeted me with the words:

What have you done to your hair? – It looks ridiculous!”

He seemed almost embarrassed to be seen with me and I didn’t understand his reaction. I reminded him that it was on MY head and that if it bothered him that much that he didn’t have to sit near me on the train. The others arrived together soon after, Don and two or three people I didn’t know very well. He was always smartly turned out and had great dress sense and that night he was wearing his red Harrington jacket, he always cut a dash. He didn’t so much as mention the change in my hairstyle but that didn’t surprise me at all. I sat with him on the train, happy as always to be in his company.

We arrived at the club to find two massive heavies on the door who were herding people into line before getting their all-important cash from them for entry. They spoke to people as if they were dirt and some seemed quite happy with that, as if it were part of the experience. It was a far cry from the smile you used to get from Andy and Sue when they were running the place before. Everything had gone to shit, the club wasn’t cleaned anymore, the toilets were disgusting and the bar staff and even the audience had changed beyond all recognition. The Roxy used to be very friendly but there was no sign of the place I used to frequent and no one seemed to care anyway. I can’t remember the names of the bands playing that night and perhaps it’s best that way as they were all awful. There was no one else there that I knew and I felt like an alien among the rough crowd, who were pogoing on demand because the papers had told them that’s what we all did. At around 11pm Don had had enough and announced that he and Frank and one of the other guys were leaving. I didn’t blame them for wanting to go but I decided to stick it out for a bit longer to see if anyone else turned up and the other two I didn’t know very well were already quite merry and intent on staying.

After ten or fifteen minutes I’d have enough too and left alone to go home. When I got to the end of Neal Street I saw someone I thought was Don leaning against a tree, with his back to me. Most people who wore Harrington jackets then went for the black ones and when I saw the back of his red jacket I was already pretty sure it was Don but I didn’t understand why he wasn’t long gone by now. I reached the tree and walked around it to find out what was going on. I was horrified when I saw Don’s face was literally covered in blood, which was pouring out of his nose, his mouth and a wound on his head. He was trying hard to steady himself and stay upright and was understandably a bit dazed.

What happened Don?” I asked him “Who did this to you?

Shh Soo” he said, “Keep your voice down, I’m all right, just walk away – I don’t want you to get hurt”.

I told him there was no way I was going to leave him and asked him again who had hit him and then he motioned for me to come closer and whispered to me:

It was those two blokes standing right behind you over there, please, just go home now, I’m worried they’ll hurt you

As he spoke into my ear I saw something move across the road and it caught my eye. It was Frank and his friends, who’d run away while Don was getting a beating, hiding behind parked cars and watching at a safe distance. I was disgusted. I walked over to the two men standing behind me as Don stood leaning on the tree, looking very concerned.

Excuse me, can I talk to you for a moment please?” I said

Uh Okay” came the reply

Politely I began: “This guy over here is a very good friend of mine and I can’t for the life of me think of any reason why anyone would want to hurt him. He has a heart of gold and I’ve never known him to be violent – ever, so can you please explain to me what’s going on? I really need to understand this

A punk with a red jacket hit my mate”, one of them said.

And when did this happen?” I asked.

About half an hour ago, down Shaftsbury Avenue

Half an hour ago? Well he was in a club with me half an hour ago and only left ten or fifteen minutes ago, so it obviously wasn’t him who hit your friend. And by your logic that means I should toddle off, (I made little stepping motions to illustrate) - leave you two here and walk around until I find someone else with a black jacket like yours – and then I hit him – because you’ve hit my friend and you’re wearing a black jacket? Have I got this right?

By the time I finished what I was saying both men seemed to have realised how stupid they’d sounded and hung their heads like small boys who’d been told off by their mothers. They both said quietly and sheepishly:

Sorry”.

Well it’s no good apologising to me is it? Apologise to my friend, look at the state of him!” I said

They both walked over to Don and apologised and each shook his hand, while he stood there still leaning on the tree looking confused. One of them waved down a black taxi and opened the door about to get in. Then he stopped and said to us:

Do you want to take this taxi? We can get the next one

I said we’d take it, I just wanted to get Don out of there. I was very angry with Frank for deserting Don like that and I didn’t want to talk to him again at that moment. I couldn’t believe that he’d run away and watched from across the street while his friend was getting his head kicked in, some friend. I told Don to get into the cab first and got in after him, putting myself between him and his assailants, just to be sure. One of the men who’d beaten him up knocked on the window and then handed me a tenner for the fare, apologising again. I thanked him and told him to ‘behave himself’ and as the cab pulled away and I began tending to Don’s wounds. He looked right at me and said:

Soo what just happened? How did you do that?

I had to admit that I hadn’t a clue and we both laughed. Don never forgot that night, or the way I had defended him. He couldn’t believe that a 5 foot 1 inch girl had managed to reason with two thugs and somehow got them to apologise and pay our cab fare, while his three male friends were cowering like cowards behind cars across the street. Don was worth every minute of my time and effort and had I been called on to defend him again I would have done so without a second thought. I do want to make it perfectly clear that Don was no coward, he had been beaten without warning and could barely stand up. He never had any interest in violence either so was ill-prepared for what happened that night, it was hardly a fair fight. He told me after that how much he appreciated knowing someone who was there when the chips were down. I said that I knew he’d have done the same for me if the situation had arisen – and I knew it was true because Don was a real English gent.

iron horse english don

Goodbye for now English Don Cornwallis, ride like the wind! I’m sure we’ll meet up again in the next round…

Soo x

Contemplate, Ruminate, Meditate… but don’t stagnate!

(Please note that if you wish to leave a comment related to this blog post, hopefully after you’ve read it ;) – scroll down below the comments at the end of the post. Thank You. Your email address will not be published)

“I want freedom for the full expression of my personality”.
-Gandhi

Hello My Lovelies,

I was thinking about you all and how you used to enjoy the quotes I once posted and I figured that if you appreciated them, you might also like some of my favourite snippets of inspirational literature too. As you’ve probably noticed, I like the classic older stuff mostly. I find that reading these little gems can make the difference between having a so-so day and a great day, so here’s to many more great days for all of us, this blog is for you…

DSC_0390_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFile

“An unexamined life is not worth living”
-Socrates

Who am I, and why am I here?” – this is something I’ve been asking myself for many years. If you do this too, then maybe we could explore a little together? Perhaps you’ve read a great book at just the right time when you needed the information in it, or maybe you saw a good quote that spoke volumes to you and want to share it with everyone else? Let’s face it there’s doom and gloom, here-say and gossip in abundance just about everywhere, it’s certainly got ample coverage elsewhere, so I’d like to make a little space here where we can take a moment from our day to think bigger and better thoughts – to encourage each other and leave behind all the negativity for a while. We’re all teachers and learners in life and even if there are no gold stars to be had, there’s certainly no excuse for anyone to feel either stupid or overly clever, your thoughts are just as relevant as the next person’s. We all possess knowledge, so let’s walk side by side and see where the journey takes us…

“Friends have all things in common”.
-Plato

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…At the age of 16 I found a typed piece of paper in a drawer at work, left behind by the person who held the post before me. The first time I read it, it made so much sense to me that I kept it in my purse for many years after that, taking it out to read when I felt sad or dejected or lacking inspiration. Around ten years later I found it in a book I read and since then I’ve bought more copies of that one book than any other, to give to friends old and new. It’s one of my all time favourite books to this day. This beautiful work is called ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran. The section I carried around with me was the chapter about ‘Friendship’.

Friendship

“And a youth said, “Speak to us of Friendship.”
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

-Khalil Gibran
‘The Prophet’

file1101277665895

… And then years later when my kids were small I discovered Louise L. Hay and a book she wrote called ‘You Can Heal Your Life’. Louise apparently was cured of cancer by changing her diet, lifestyle and most importantly – her thinking. One of my close friends had died of lung cancer just prior to my reading this book and I only wished I could have read it sooner and made a gift of it to her. The simple message makes absolute sense, in a world that often doesn’t. Louise has done some wonderful work with people suffering from all kinds of serious illness, (for which she uses the term ‘dis-ease’). She’s also done a lot of work with people affected by aids (she never uses the capital letters for the illness as she says the word can evoke enough fear already and she refuses to give it that much power). Her message has been inspriring to so many people, who were literally in fear of their lives when such illnesses struck them low.

“Every thought we think is creating our future”.
-Louise L. Hay

When I discovered this book I’d been very troubled, without really knowing the reason why, I took the decision at that point to consulte a ‘healer’, because like most people, when they’re between a rock and a hard place, they’ll try anything – and I was open-minded enough to try anything. I’m glad I did because the healer that I went to see turned out to be a lively 92 year old woman, who was full of positivity and Love, and I left her home feeling like I was walking at least a foot above the pavement. She managed to somehow ‘see’ what all my problems were just with one look at me. When I left she gave me the cassette of a relaxation/meditation by Louise Hay that was a companion to the above mentioned book. I listened to it at every opportunity because I knew it helped me to get my thoughts straight, even though I didn’t understand some of what Louise was saying at the time. What I did know was that it felt good to hear it and that was enough for me. From listening to the cassette I wanted to read her book and soon began working with the ideas in it…  far from being a quick fix – it wasn’t long before my life was completely upside down!  It seems that if we want happiness and peace, that sometimes there’s a storm before the Calm, much like the old adage that ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs’. It turned out to be a price worth paying and things began to right themselves slowly, but surely. In her book Louise quoted a line from ‘A Course In Miracles’, which is often described as a phsychological self-study course, and although it’s terminology is heavily religious, the themes contained in it are not connected to any particular religion or faith, and it is studied across the world. Having been inspired by the one line quoted in Louise’s book, I went on to read the Course itself. That line was:

“Would you rather be right, or happy?”.

It seemed like a no-brainer to me, of course I’d rather be happy than to be ‘right’. Who is really ‘right’ all the time anyway? What are mere opinions so often pass for ‘truth’, due to our conditioning,  someone said something was so and we dutifully accept it as ‘truth’ without so much as to check the facts, which are often available to us at the click of a mousepad.

-A Course In Miracles

I didn’t take kindly on first reading to being told that I didn’t understand the world I saw around me. Who me? I’m not exactly a child? I thought – and that, it seems was the point. I had forgotten a lot of simple things that were all too clear in my younger years, and learned how to fear and limit myself, apparently. It’s much of our adult learning that can get in the way of our just being able to ‘be’. All the references in the book to ‘Heaven’ or ‘going home’ made me think that the Course was asking me to get my work here done fast and then die! – that however turned out to be my misinterpretation of the principles and on second reading I could see that. Heaven, it seems, according to the Course – is not a place after all, but a state of mind, just as hell is also explained the same way. If nothing else, the Course offers a route to peace of mind, if we are prepared to face our self-created demons.

Dying To Be Me

More recently a friend suggested I may be interested in reading a book by Anita Moorjani - a woman who was rushed to hospital in a coma, in end stages of cancer with her organs beginning to shut down. Anita had an experience, interestingly in her case, religion played no part, and the result was that she left hospital three weeks later with no cancer anywhere in her body. She suffered for four years, never giving up the idea that she would find her healing and wishing almost beyond hope to continue to live. Her story is a very interesting one and she was lucky enough to have a medical doctor catalogue her records so that her experience is backed by facts. She now spends her time touring the world and spreading the word to bring hope to others. For anyone who knows anyone affected by cancer, it is an uplifting read and the book is called ‘Dying To Be Me’. Of course neither she, nor I, are suggesting you forgo consulting your health practitioner but the ideas are empowering and can work with the treatment already being undertaken. She also has a website at www.anitamoorjani.com where there are video interviews, if you cannot afford to read her book, or don’t wish to, you can still benefit by hearing aspects of her story and how her healing came about, so you can make up your own mind if you think it might be helpful to you or those you love.

What Khalil Gibran, Louise Hay and The Course (A Course In Miracles – also known as ACIM for short) suggest is that we ALL need more Love in our lives.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is Love”.
-Sophocles

Having mentioned A Course In Miracles, I can’t not mention the beautiful passage written by Marianne Williamson. I first heard this  quoted a long, long time ago (only it was mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela at the time). This is an excerpt from Marianne’s book ‘A Return to Love’:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others”.

IMG_1450

So be the most authentic you that you can be, and think and question and don’t give up until you’re living the life of your dreams, you might just get there – but if you never try, then you’ll never know. We all know that life is not an experience where we get wrapped up in cotton wool and nothing or no one ever challenges us, but it’s the way we deal with our challenges and our ability to get up and dust ourselves off that makes all the difference. Whatever makes you feel inspired – then do that thing as often as possible. Look for the silver lining in the storm cloud and remember that there are people out there going through exactly the same experiences as you at any given moment.

Hating and insulting people and things won’t bring the change you need and presumably want, trying to understand what motivated them to do what they did might give a little insight. We’re all human and it can be a rough journey out there, so let’s try and give a sincere smile to a stranger. A smile is something that can register in the mind later, even if you get a scowl in return. I like to think then that that person is just having a bad day, but when they get down the road – they’ll pass that smile on to the next person they see. Let’s be part of the solution and not the problem itself and dare to care for our fellow travellers and their well-being. We do after all, get what we give. What goes around comes around, so it won’t be long before a stranger smiles back at you – perhaps when you most need it ;).

If you like what you’ve read, or disagree with anything here, please comment away and let’s explore together. You don’t even have to give your real name if you don’t want to, it’s all up to you. I never collect email addresses for comments on my blog, it’s just a wordpress requirement, rather than anything else. I do not use email addresses for any reason, nor do I pass them on to anyone else. I welcome your thoughts on this subject.

“All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason”.

-Emerson

Love and Respect to each and every one of you,
Soo x:)

PS: Each of the authors mentioned in this blog has their name as a clickable link, should you wish to check them out further.

I read this poem today for the first time and wanted to add it to this post:

Thoughts Are Things

I hold it true that thoughts are things;
They’re endowed with bodies and breath and wings;
And that we send them forth to fill
The world with good results, or ill.
That we call our secret thought
Speeds forth to earth’s remotest spot,
Leaving its blessings or its woes
Like tracks behind it as it goes.
We build our future, thought by thought,
For good or ill, yet know it not.
Yet, so the universe was wrought.
Thought is another name for fate;
Choose, then thy destiny and wait,
For love brings love and hate brings hate.

Henry Van Dyke

Disclaimer: Reading this blog or any of the books or information listed is not intended to in any way replace the seeking of medical care. If you have any health concerns please consult a medical pratitioner.

 

Another year, another tear, another beer and a couple of T’s

bkcard

“Even though we’ve changed and we’re all finding our own place in the world, we all know that when the tears fall or the smile spreads across our face, we’ll come to each other because no matter where this crazy world takes us, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we’re not all still friends.”

It’s Christmas time again (and Yule etc) but I like to think of this time of year mostly as ‘the season of goodwill to all men’, let’s bank it while we can and save some for the rest of the year when it’s in short supply.

“Love is saying ‘I feel differently’ instead of ‘You’re wrong.’”

My thoughts go out to those spending their time alone, as well as those duty bound to be with people they’d rather not.  There’s alcohol everywhere, and that brings to mind those who have made the brave decision to be sober, this must surely be the most difficult time of year for them (I salute your resolve and wish you well).

“Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real. Perhaps they are”

There really is more to life I think than getting lashed; I’m an ‘all things in moderation’ kind of gal myself but I hasten to add that I’m not here to pass judgment on anyone else, we all have different needs and experiences that help shape us and how we enjoy our lives.

 “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions, all life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better”

There’s a lot of pressure on us these days from the media, they tell us we need to wear the right designer labels, drive the right car, have the right partner, own the right house etc. etc. etc. They tell us that if we don’t have these things, then we’re simply useless tossers who are pitifully lacking and show us how the ‘other half’ lives, to rub it in.

“Things are in the saddle and ride mankind”

I don’t see myself as ‘less than’ or ‘more than’, particularly not for such hollow reasons. We all have a choice to either consume the contents of the nosebag put in front of us and swallow it whole, or take another route to find our green pasture. Thoughts have much more power than we give them credit for and to let someone else tell you what yours are should be a crime.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us”

When it comes to following a herd I’ve never felt that was my personal journey, even if it meant that the ride was rougher and required more contemplation to go it alone. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to own a nice house, or drive a flash car, enjoy wearing nice clothes or have the right kind of partner.  I also wouldn’t look down on (or up to) anyone else who does.

It’s a wonderful life if you can get it and of course one I wouldn’t mind but I don’t believe the acquisition or ownership of any of those things has anything to do with real worth. Considering I possess none of them I guess I’d be crying in my tea if I thought otherwise.

 cherub frame

“Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold”

On Tuesday I was at my Aunt Olive’s funeral, which was playing, unsurprisingly, to a packed house. She was 86 years old when she died, and had led a life of complete selflessness; much like the rest of her family (including my Mum) who went before her. She was my favourite and last living Aunt and I will miss visiting her very much, and tending to her roses for her in the summertime. She was a brave and courageous woman and an inspiration to me, not least because she was a single parent who brought up seven children after her husband ran off with another woman.

She made the best of everything and was always down to earth and welcoming, there was real heart in her home. She leaves not only my seven cousins, but grandchildren, great grandchildren and extended family and friends. She will be sorely missed by all and it’s the end of an era for the family. If any of the material things I mentioned earlier really were some kind of gauge of what’s most important in life, then perhaps my Aunt Olive (like me) would’ve rated quite low on the scale, yet not one of the people whose lives she touched is likely to ever forget her kindness, her humour, her smile or her gentle and understanding nature.

Aunt Olive xmas 2011

“Love and you shall be loved”

She was frail when I saw her in hospital the night before she died and she couldn’t speak, but she held my hand when I placed it in hers. She was a woman of few words anyway and had always spoken most by her deeds. It was easy to sit there and tell her why she’s so loved and why she had no cause to fear whatever was to come. She’d said a month or so ago that she was ‘ready to go’ and that she ‘wanted to spend this Christmas with her own family’, her brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t be surprised if she got her wish, she certainly earned that and much more. She also said that she wanted people to wear bright colours to her funeral and not to be miserable – I wore my leopard print coat; I think she would’ve approved. I consider myself very blessed to have had her in my life for so long. When I think about it, she was also one of the very few people who didn’t bat an eyelid when she saw my now famous haircut; I told her on her deathbed just how much it meant to me that she hadn’t judged me when so many others had.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased”

 I want to thank those of you who have dropped by the Dotty Rebel Store and ordered the new Soo Catwoman shirts, we’re pleased to hear that some of you have them already.

swindledSwindled for Rock ‘n’ Roll’ was an inspired idea that came to me in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. I had scribbled in pencil on a scrap of paper by my bedside so I wouldn’t forget to tell Dion about it in the morning. When I told her she thought it was a great idea and set to work to make it happen.

“Art is a jealous mistress”

  Every night after getting home from her day job she worked on the designs, also coming up with the ‘Viva La Cat’ idea. I think they’re great t shirts, I’d go so far as to say that I think they’re our best yet ;).

I’m looking forward to seeing photos of youviva wearing your shirts on Facebook. Please share your pictures with us and don’t be a stranger. We apologise that the shirts weren’t ready earlier (in time for Christmas) but there has been so much going on, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I hope it won’t take me a year to write another blog! Be well and happy in 2013. You can leave a comment below. I’d be grateful if you could start it with ‘Dear Soo’ since WordPress seems to get its fair share of spam comments and it will help me sort through them. All the very best to you!

Soo x :)

(All quotes in italics by Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Comments now closed.

An Old Fashioned Christmas…

It doesn’t seem possible that a year has gone by since I wrote this…

Mistletoe

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Walter de la Mare (1913)

I think the less said about the last year the better for me.  As the festive season is creeping nearer and after all the sadness and tears of last Christmas (which never really happened in our house) – we’re getting into the spirit of it this year.  In December 2010 there were no cards sent (or displayed), no decorations, no presents – nothing Christmassy at all in fact, just a long sojourn in the metaphorical cave, where I spent the best part of a year – but that was what was needed to get through it – but I’m determined that this year is going to be different and I’m doing my best to get into the spirit of it.

Since the kids were little we always put our Christmas tree up on December 1st and took it down on New Year’s Day, the lights seemed to help us get through the darkest month and once again, this year it sits resplendent in the corner.  When Shem and Dion were teenagers they decided that rather than me buying them presents to wrap in secret and leave under the tree, that they preferred to have the money to spend as they saw fit.  It was an arrangement I agreed to at the time but it also took a bit of the joy out of Christmas for me.  This year we’re making up for it though, Shem came up with the idea of us all making an Amazon Wish List and it’s proving to be lots of fun. It’s nice to know that you’re buying something someone actually wants and not condemning them to take anything back to the shops if you got it wrong. Some people have scorn for wishlists, why I don’t know, it’s not as if my kids are twisting my arm to buy them presents, I’m hardly going to do so if I don’t want to. For some of us it takes the trudging and the madding crowds out of Christmas and that’s just wonderful as far as I’m concerned. If you haven’t made one yet already I highly recommend it, it saves a lot of legwork and getting cold, which works for me.

Usually like many other mothers I tend to put myself last, and when anyone has asked me what I want for Christmas in the past I generally opted for something useful in the home, but the Wish List is helping to cure me of that and I’ve even put a few of my pipe dreams on there, mind you there’s a lot of crap I’d actually never buy myself too lol (have to sort that out).  Even if all I get is some tea light candles or a set of colour coded chopping boards or a Scott Walker or Van Morrison CD to replace one of the ones I’ve worn out, I know I’ll be very happy and grateful for my gifts because this year we’re going to do it right.  The nice thing about the Wish List is that you still find you’re selective about what you want to get for someone, so it doesn’t take all the imagination out of buying presents, there are still choices to be made.  There are already a few under the tree and there’ll be a few more to come, and the funny thing is that after last year, I feel none of the pressure of planning the ‘perfect Christmas’ – I know that whatever happens will be enough for me.  I’ve put the Christmas tree in the corner of the room where Larry’s picture hangs and it feels as if beyond all the grief of losing him, that we’ll have an invisible Christmas guest this year.  When I read the poem above, it was him that came to my mind and he felt a little bit closer somehow.  Finally I can recall the wonderful person he was beyond all the bad treatment and pain he endured, so I’ll be looking for that kiss on the cheek this Christmas, even if it is in my imagination, I might even leave a bottle of real ale under the Christmas tree for him.  I know that there’ll be times when I’ll miss him for the rest of my life and the hardest thing has been to try and find some closure when there’s been no justice for Larry.  I’ve accepted now that there likely never will be, but he’s beyond things like that now and I want to remember him for his sense of humour, warmth and generosity and be thankful that he graced my life for so long.  He was so much more than a brother – he was also my friend.

“Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends”
~ Richard Bach

I really wanted to wish each and every one of you the best Christmas ever and as we say goodbye to another year I hope the new one brings you closer to your dreams.

Comments are now closed.

(The image  at the top of the page is  ‘An Old-Fashioned Christmas’ by HBKerr Digital Art, who is in no way associated with this blog.)

Spot The Difference!

This is a picture of me taken in 1976 by Ray Stevenson ————–>

<—This is a picture of Judy Croll (according to IMDB’s information on the movie ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’). My image was stolen in order to pass Judy off as me in that film.

Why is it that *some* people still think this was me?  I know many of you reading this probably don’t but there are those out there who still do.  Shem tells me that he’s noticed that people often post this girl’s naked pic on their blogs, stating that it’s me – IT’S NOT ME!!

I may have sneered now and then, but poor Judy looks downright humiliated! Why would anyone want to perpetuate that agony by reposting this pic? Being filmed naked at the impressionable age of 14 may well be something she might not now be so proud of, assuming she’s still around, and even if not I hope she has more than this to be remembered for.

If you look at Judy’s facial features you will see that her bone structure is completely different to mine, as is the shape of her face.  The make up itself is a pretty shoddy attempt too, then when you check the hair, not only is the hairline completely different but this version of my haircut is really pretty crappy. Judy’s forehead is much more square than my own and her face is much thinner. You also may have noticed in close up pictures that I have a scar on my forehead, which can confirm which pictures are of me. I’m sure you all know that I got a barber to shave the middle of my hair off at his shop in Ealing, West London, so the film implying that my hairdo was all Malcolm’s idea and cut by Helen is ridiculous. Even Judy’s flat chest should have given it away and I’m not sure how I can be confused with someone with no chest at all. Of course at 14, some people don’t yet have a chest to boast about and my beef is not with Judy in any of this, I think she was used. I don’t understand why a 14 year old was put in that position in the first place though, or why she seems to be covered in bruises! These days such things would be considered child porn, which may have had something to do with the digital addition of underwear on the video release.

As a mother myself I can’t understand how anyone would want to manipulate a minor in this way, let alone do so in my name! So if you think that movie was ‘cool’ and see nothing wrong with it then I sincerely hope you don’t have daughters, or that you watch it just for the Sid clips. I have never been able to work out why a 14 year old child was chosen to play me in the first place, since I was 22 years old in 1976. More to the point is the fact that I have never been photographed naked, which means that the portrayal had nothing to do with me (or reality) AT ALL, even though my image was stolen and sold down the river (once again with no financial gain for me whatsoever) we were both used.

I don’t think I’m a prude and if you just happen to feel great about being photographed nude (and you are not underage) then that’s fine with me, but for me to be portrayed in this way as someone I’m not has caused me and my family a lot of grief. It’s also been pretty annoying all these years for my kids. Their schoolfriends used to find that photograph attached to my name and if it was embarrassing to me, it was more embarrassing to them to have to explain it. Who’d choose to be mistaken for a mouldable child who was used (and possibly abused) for the titilation of grown men who were old enough to know better? Not me. It might be something that would make some people happy in their search for 15 minutes’ fame – for me it’s a huge insult.

So if you write a blog and mention me in it, please check that any pictures you include are actually of me. I’ve noticed that many people also don’t bother to include the name of the photographer and it’s just common courtesy to do so, if nothing else. Most of them were taken by either Ray Stevenson or Bob Gruen. If in your blog you discuss the film ‘The Great Rock N Roll Swindle’ then it had nothing to do with me (or reality) and the only way any mention of me would belong there at all is if you wanted to point to this blog to help me get the word out.

I do wonder where Judy’s mum was in all this?  You’d think she must’ve been aware at some point what her daughter was up to? I know I would never have let Dion do anything like this at such a tender age. If she decided to do it now at 23 (25 now!) of course she’d have my full support and that would be her own choice because she’s an adult and can make her own decisions.

I’ve had to crop the above image of Judy in order to post it since I don’t want to circulate the full shot, but if you should come across the naked picture of Judy anywhere attached to my name or not, please do me a favour and report it as inappropriate. Perhaps if it’s claiming she’s me you could point out to the poster that they have it wrong – I’d be grateful. I like to think she would be too. I’m sure if Judy’s out there somewhere that she may not want to be reminded of this unfortunate time in her life, she could even be a mother herself by now.

While we’re on this subject, a friend of a friend bought a Jamie Reid poster for him costing a cool £900 on Ebay. It was advertised as an art print of a photograph of ‘Soo Catwoman’. When he recieved it though, it was actually a photo of Judy’s face, so perhaps Jamie didn’t even know who I was? The friend sent it to Dion and myself after we offered to deface it for him and he now feels much better about framing and displaying it. Here it is:

  martin's judy poster

Ah that’s better ^ this is the REAL Soo Catwoman ;)

-Soo :x)

PS: punk webmasters, please sort your tags out. Debbie Juvenile and her bondage pics have nothing to do with me either, why is my name on them?

(Note: The name of the actress mentioned in this blog is taken from the IMDB database and is not something I feel any need to discuss further,  beyond what is already here written on the subject. Comments are now closed. Thank you.)

“As soon as you’re ill, they kill you!”

I wanted to  update this post and condense it down a bit as it was all so raw when I wrote it but it’ll have to wait for another day as I’m finding it difficult to just read through it, let alone re-write it.  I’ll always miss Larry and two years on I still miss him every bit as much as when I wrote this.  I know I was blessed to have had a brother like him and I am starting to remember more of the happier times we spent together and smile about them.  That doesn’t mean that I will ever consider the way he died okay. But it is a start x

“As soon as you’re ill, they kill you!”
–       Derek and Clive (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore)

Alternatively:
“How people die remains in the memory of those who live on”
-Dame Cicely Saunders

Here we are in March 2011 and it’s almost spring, there are signs of life waiting to burst forth from the trees and flowers and it can’t come soon enough for me.  It’s been a rough, long and cold winter, with more snow in London again this year.  I’m not a great fan of snow myself, nor freezing temperatures, mostly because I find it impossible to keep my hands and feet warm, no matter what I wear.  For many reasons I am looking forward to spring and summer in the hopes that they will finally melt the ice that has taken up refuge in my heart.  If the cold weather wasn’t enough to chill me to the bones, November also brought the untimely death of my wonderful and very well loved brother Larry.  It was not a quick, nor painless death and three times I witnessed him in a state of mortal terror at his unfolding fate, crying (for the first time in his life) but without being able to make any tears.  Although Larry had a cycling accident in France at the end of June 2010 there were a series of fortunate incidents that helped him to cling to life.  The turning point came when he was brought to the UK and had to endure a series of calamities that no one should have to go through, least of all someone in such a delicate state.

Larry’s death was hastened when he was put on ‘The Liverpool Care Pathway’, something I had never even heard of before I witnessed it in action first hand.  When researching it I found out that it was created to assist elderly terminally ill cancer patients to die, preventing their continued suffering when there was no hope whatsoever of recovery.  It sounded a lot like euthanasia to me, although I thought that was illegal in this country, as I had heard of cases where terminally ill people wanted to go to other European countries to end their lives but were often prevented from doing so.  Now in the UK, the LCP is being rolled out in a lot more situations and settings with a ‘tick box system’, so that just about anyone who presents a challenge to their medical team can now be placed on it.

Larry Lucas and Roland Lucas, Soo Catwoman's brothers

Larry and Roland Lucas on a diving holiday in Gozo.

I read with interest that there were many eminent professionals in palliative care (Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics, University of London, Dr Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, and four other people) who have objected to the way this scheme is operated and their concerns about it, stating that ‘forecasting death is an inexact science’.  They wrote an open letter to the Daily Telegraph in 2009 to express their concerns publicly (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/6133157/Dying-patients.html).  I would like to thank each and every one of them for speaking out and I hope that the scheme will be looked at more closely at some point as a result.

In Larry’s case, he was not ‘terminally ill’ at all in the accepted sense, nor did he have cancer.  I have read a great deal now about The Liverpool Care Pathway and how it is claimed to be so ‘humane’ for those with terminal illness, yet it was used in the case of my brother and in my humble opinion was anything but humane.  I will always believe that he should never have been placed on the scheme at all.  I watched him being dehydrated and starved to death, unable to do anything to stop the nightmare from unfolding before my eyes.  It was like watching a murder or a sacrifice, committed by unthinking and unfeeling aliens.  He suffered a great deal, not just due to the stress, hopelessness, ignorance and poor care but also because people so often forgot that just because a person can’t talk that their ears work perfectly well, the hospital chaplain being one case in point who was having a charming conversation about sandwiches when I arrived in his room the day before he died.  I don’t know about you but talking about food at the bedside of a starving and dehydrated man does not seem to me to be showing compassion.  I didn’t bother to take her to task and waste what would be the last visit with my brother but was glad when she scurried out of the room.  Suffice it to say that Larry’s was not an easy, nor a timely death.  I believe with all my heart that he should and would still be here if he had either remained in France or received the proper care.  He couldn’t even complain about his treatment because he developed hydrocephalus and couldn’t speak, although there was no explanation forthcoming about how that happened, or why it wasn’t picked up on sooner.  We have our suspicions but of course no one will now ever listen to them.  Brain injuries, like strokes, can take a long time to recover from but this seems to have escaped everyone concerned in Larry’s care.  He did not heal according their schedule, how unreasonable of him?

The first grave error was his removal from the state-of-the-art French hospital he was in after the accident when only four weeks had passed, almost two of which he spent in coma.  I was surprised they allowed his release at all but don’t know any of the details.  He was flown back to the UK with six broken ribs and a broken collarbone, and after having had brain surgery and a tracheotomy and before the bone flap had been replaced, so had no protection for the injury site of his brain.  It takes up the three months for the injury site to repair itself and the flap is only replaced after the healing is well underway and all chance of complications or the need for further surgery is over.  Despite all this he was not taken straight to another brain injury unit on arrival in the UK.  London has a very good brain injuries unit, perhaps several, but instead he ended up in some backwater in a general hospital, where they seemed to have no clue how to treat him.  He also contracted MRSA the day he arrived there.  I noticed on their website that they claimed NO cases of MRSA.

It’s all too late for Larry; we can’t bring him back of course.  Some people console themselves with the fact that they believed that he was a mere vegetable, rather than seeing any signs of the fit and healthy person they used to know before.  Perhaps they thought that life in his condition was no life at all and were agreeable to the ending of his life, of course I can’t speak for anyone else.  I knew that Larry wasn’t a vegetable, I spoke to him at great length, asking a great deal of questions and asking for a ‘yes/no’ response with the movement of a hand or a foot, once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no’, repeating the questions several times to make sure the answers were consistent.  This was also done by and witnessed by another brother, who was also communicating well with him.  Between us we asked him if he knew what had happened to him – he didn’t remember much about the accident itself.  We asked if he knew where he was – he knew he was in a hospital.  We asked if he knew why he was there and what had happened, and I also explained that the reason why some of his limbs didn’t work, as they should, was because of the injury and resulting surgery to his brain, rather than a physical disability – he hadn’t known this.  Most importantly, we asked him if he wanted to live, even if it meant that he’d never walk again and he gave a definite ‘yes’ on both counts, again and again, that to be alive was what he wanted, in fact he got very animated when asked this question as if he believed we could do something about his fate.  He wanted to fight his illness and was raring to give it his all.  I also observed that since his accident, Larry had never looked so much like his old self as he did after they stopped giving him the antibiotics.  He perked up no end and was much more alert, responding to the music and sound files that my brother played to him.

We tried to let the doctors know that he had made improvement, but it fell on deaf ears.  They treated us as an irritation at best and like troublemakers at worst for having the audacity to question their decisions.  We had known Larry for a lifetime, he was someone we loved and believed in, and we were familiar with his (and our) upbringing and mental agility, as well as his fighting spirit.  We pleaded with them for two weeks’ grace, for Larry to have a chance to show improvement and fight the aspirational pneumonia that had failed to respond to the ultra broad-spectrum antibiotics, the drugs they had described as ‘the big guns’, which we believed actually made him worse.  They refused to remove him from the LCP and his care, which was already poor, nose-dived.  They stopped washing him, hid his catheter under the bedclothes, and folded the bag up double for some inexplicable reason.  They also withdrew all drugs and set up a morphine pump, although we noticed there were never any of the sponges in the room that they said we could wet his lips with, in fact they only turned up when he was on deep sedation.  It was also cruel that he had witnessed the death of his father in law in his own home on the same scheme that was now robbing him of his life – and he knew exactly what was happening to him.  The old gent however did have terminal cancer and was suffering.  Larry was thought to be ‘suffering’ even when he cleared his throat or had wind, no one was taking any notice of what was really going on with him, and those of us that did were ignored.  Larry only began to suffer when he was dehydrated and starved to death and had he actually been ‘terminally ill’ as they said, then surely he would have died anyway, without the dehydration and the horrible scenes that burned themselves onto our memories and split our family in two forever.

It seems there was no justice for Larry, but I have always believed in karma, that what goes around comes around, so there is no hatred from me to anyone involved in Larry’s death, I don’t deal in hate.  All I ask is that they remember his name and what they put him through, how they made him suffer in the name of ‘not suffering’.  I hope that they one day fully understand what it is that they have done on a mere whim.  Interestingly the inquest into Larry’s death was also rushed forward and took place two days before Christmas.  Many of us who wanted to, couldn’t attend – with the snow preventing travel for my relatives who don’t live in London, others being very busy at work at that time of year.  I couldn’t go because I spent six weeks in bed with severe and painful sciatica, unable to walk, and couldn’t even manage to get a doctor to return my calls during that time, how I love the NHS.  Christmas didn’t happen at all in 2010 for us, we had no heart for celebration anyhow.  Two of my brothers did manage to attend the inquest, and it confirmed a few things we suspected about Larry’s treatment.

The most interesting thing to happen since was that his death certificate didn’t mention ‘The Liverpool Care Pathway’ at all (although it was mentioned in the inquest), instead it was all wrapped up neatly citing that his death was the result of ‘intra-cranial haemorrhage and bronchial pneumonia, the result of the accident in France’ – the only thing is that Larry had ASPIRATIONAL pneumonia, due to the constant reflux of his liquid food, time and again we told the nurses that he was supposed to be elevated when fed and time after time they had him lying flat.  I never once heard the word ‘bronchial’ mentioned during his entire time in hospital.  While researching aspirational pneumonia I noted that there is apparently no proof that aspirational pneumonia responds to antibiotics AT ALL.  I also read up about the ultra-broad spectrum antibiotic they used on him and was horrified to discover that it was capable of causing atrophy to all the muscles of the spine, leaving me to wonder if they did a wonderful clean up job to sweep it all under the carpet?  Although I am not a medical person and cannot claim to have all the answers, I did know my brother well enough.  I would imagine that the intra-cranial haemorrhage would seem most likely to have been the result of both the dehydration and the withdrawal of the blood-thinner warfarin that was previously preventing his blood from clotting while he was bedridden.  To top it all off when my sister asked for a transcript of the inquest she was told she couldn’t have one, even though the government website clearly states that ‘any interested party can obtain a copy of the inquest information for the cost of an administration fee’, my sister is both an ‘interested party’ and was quite happy to pay the administration fee, so it seems quite odd to me that she was refused information about her own brother’s inquest, which had they not rushed it forward by a couple of months, she would have been there in person, we all would.

The saga of Larry’s death has caused wounds so deep, in so many people that they will possibly never heal completely.  The one thing that we can all agree on is what a wonderful, kind human being he was.  Our love runs deep and everyone who knew Larry well is going to continue to miss having him in their lives, those who might find it easy to go on without him probably never really knew him to start with.  Despite our feelings about what has happened and the relationships that may have broken down as a result, Larry was a man of good humour, truth and honour, a more well-balanced and non-judgmental man I’ve never met, and he deserved so much more respect than he ever got, and someone needed to say that.

So that’s why I’ve been quiet.

Soo x

(Comments are now closed but if you wish to discuss this post you can email me via Dion)