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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Hartshill Park (Mare’s Field)

As a child, teenager, and even as a young adult, this park had many an hour spent within its boundaries, less so as I have gotten older.

In my memory banks my Nan told me the name – ‘Mare’s field’ – came about due to a stables and horse field being on the boundary, and therefore that is where the children were found, especially when foals were born. Whatever the reason it came to be known by this name, the official name – Hartshill park – seems to be the name replacing it, even locally.

When I was a child, the bottom pond was the biggest attraction, the upper pond was always too densely covered with duck weed , rendering it useless for pond dipping, it grew so thick that one might think it a grassy area and walk straight into it at dusk. Thankfully it has a fence surrounding it now.

The lower pond now has a little wooden ‘bridge’ over the overflow, which makes getting to the area that was best for dipping easier. Frogs, Newts, Sticklebacks,Water boatmen, Pond skaters, Dragonflies , Damselflies as well as Butterflies and grasshoppers were the catch to be had, there may even have been minnows and toads as well.

To get to the pond back then was a dirty trek, even on a good day. The tracks, as I remember, were made with red ash, dusty in the summer and messy in the wet. I am glad to say most of the track is now tarmac or stones only a couple of places remain in the muddy state as I remember. There has been much work done on this park since my childhood and all for the better.

The park itself is situated atop of and on the side of, what is affectionally called, Stoke bank. This makes for an undulating pathway going around the park, with plenty of steps that could be incorporated into a walk to get the heart rate up even higher. There are several benches around the park to take a break and watch the world go by, to let the heart rate come back down again.

A couple of carparks are available, and refreshments can be had from the local shops/petrol station. There are no toilets however. The park is not wheelchair friendly, even though the path is, unless you want a coronary trying to push someone around it.

If you’re in the area and fancy a park that will get the heart pumping in a short amount of distance, give Hartshill Park a try.

It makes a nice change from all the flat ones.

Writing an “I AM” poem #poetry #poem

canstockphoto8630797This is something new for me, I had never heard of an “I AM” poem till group today, asked if I was putting it on my wall after the ‘leader’, for a want of a better word, read it to the group, I hesitated before saying “maybe”.
To be honest, I don’t think I have written a poem since school, a time long, long ago, I’m not sure if this even qualifies as a poem but here it is.

This is my “wall”.

I am…fractured.
I wonder…what is.
I hear…the wind.
I see…water flow.
I want…one mind.
I am …fractured.

I pretend…in front of others.
I feel…the weather outside.
I touch…my dog, Spot.
I worry…I am not heard.
I cry…often.
I am…fractured.

I understand…all I have learnt.
I say…what is required.
I dream…of my life to be.
I try…to get there.
I hope because, it is all that is left.
I am…clambering out of the river, battered, bruised, unsure of my location, cold and afraid; but alive.

Reflections…Week Twelve

IMG_0167I sat down to write this weeks reflections last night, there before me a blank area on the screen waiting to be filled, behind my eyes, another blank area waiting to be filled.  Nothing came to the fore, no subject nor idea. For five minutes an empty mind sat before an empty screen.

Then I went and made a cup of tea, the very British way of dealing with a problem.

I came back to the screen, still had nothing, switched it off and did something else.

Procrastination is a skill I utilise well, but this was not one of those times, I did not know what to write about, I could not recall what went on in the week before. So I have left it till today to write a day later than I like to have it done, so I can proof read it usually, but still within the parameters of my personal challenge for the year.

I wish I could say that the week was that uneventful it was boringly slow, alas Spot made it not so. Last Saturday her usual morning constitutional had failed to materialise leaving  her stomach bloated, she also has not eaten, nor drank since Friday night. When I saw what looked like blood from her bum it sent me in a panic.

Spot has been the cornerstone to my mental health recovery, more than anyone in my family can imagine, we have had a strong bond ever since I had to resuscitate her when she was born, now she is my barometer for mood and clown to raise it up. She gives a good cuddle as well, but I think it is to get a better view over my shoulder out of the window. Her snoring by my left ear has even sent me to sleep before.

So off to the vets I go with a very mardy dog.

 (Mardy: Slang for mopey, feeling sorry for oneself, looking for sympathy)

She was given an injection to help with the pain and that was it, an appointment was made for the next day. Between the two visits Spot consumed quite a lot of chicken and rice, how this went in with an already bloated stomach I have no Idea, all there was to show for it was the smallest poop going, she still refused to drink, the only water going into her at this time is what I squirt into her mouth via syringe. I swear I have seen rats poop bigger! Off we go to the vets again, the painkiller seems to have worn off now.

Nothing, I could have gotten to the vets too early for them to tell or she has eaten something to cause a blockage, but that small poop meant that she has the chance to deliver it naturally out of her system herself. Her bloated stomach means the vet cannot feel anything to boot. But she is more hydrated today than yesterday. Off to home with syringes of painkiller, three a day.

The first string was awkward but manageable. The smell from the liquid reminded me of the dentist painkiller and what I tasted from the smell alone, it was awful. Each String got harder to give her even though I got better at delivering the dose in one hit. The last one she had to have had reached a point that although she came over to me when I got down onto the floor as soon as my hand went toward her, she’d bolt off, “I’m not having any more of that!”

Around the kitchen she’d run as I tried to catch, not cowering up against a wall run, rather a I will wag my tail and do the I want to play position, before I run inches from your fingertips kinda run.

I caught her, put her between my legs, so I can hold her mouth open with one hand and do the syringe with the other, and I squirt, Spot shoots backwards between my legs shaking her head whilst giving me the ‘I’m disgusted with you right now’ look. She comes over to me anyway when called, puts her paws on my chest bringing her nose up to mine, and then belches the foul medication smell directly at me, gets down and goes to bed. In some way I felt I deserved that.

Spot so far is doing well, movements are moving and her playful self is once again present. Fingers crossed it remains this way now she’s back onto her normal food, not the rice and chicken.







Reflections…Week Eleven


This turned out to be a bit of a long one.

“I dream of what kind of house I would live in if money was not an issue.”
This was a statement in a session by another group member this week, it acted as a kind of safe space for them. To be fair I can relate to a certain degree, but the only difference is I think about the home I want to live in, with my money issues sorted, and the house bought and paid for. I don’t intend to stay as is, this is not me, rather the toddler me, this has to get better.

So, my version of the future home took in the realistic price tag, both initial cost and running cost. I knew that certain ‘luxuries’ would be out of the window, so to speak, but in the aspect of having my own home, my own space, the loss of them was insignificant.

My initial thoughts were along the path of a 50-55ft narrowboat. I did look at a 45ft one, this is usually the size where there is a permanent bedroom rather than making a bed each night, and disassembling each morning, but I wanted space to do my art work, a studio area. I looked at the costs, including mooring in a marina, the most basic, and it worked out about the same as renting a flat, the council tax was the same, but the running costs were much, much lower than even just an average electricity bill, for the entire lot (Gas, wood, coal, diesel). But I would own my home. Unfortunately the people who run the canals don’t want any live aboard narrowboats on the water it seems, so out of the equation this went.

I have no intention of finding another partner, I now wonder how much desire to live independently from our parents drives us to find a partner to afford the cost of a house, cynical, maybe, but is that not what we are told we should do? How many relationships have lasted longer than they should have once a house is in the equation? Realistically a low income worker will have to be in a partnership to afford the costs of buying even the cheapest house now and renting can be even more expensive. With no intention of partnering up this time, owning a house is out of the equation.

I could live in a 50ft static caravan, with a few alterations for all year round living, but that is generally frowned upon by councils, so also out of the equation.

Some log cabins are now homes, but at a cost, a premium cost, once again out of the equation.

Options are running low, I did not want to live in a flat, even if you own the flat you generally don’t own either what is above or bellow it, so problems could arise from other peoples maintenance, or lack thereof, its just not the route I want to take.

It was at this point that I came across the Tiny House Movement, some I would call micro house rather than tiny and some were sheds on wheels. The ones on wheels were not of interest but those that were built as a regular house alternative, i.e ‘fixed’ that was an option I liked. 30ft x 15ft with an upper bedroom, I could easily cope with that.

Then I came across these really ugly houses made of tyres and dirt, for the most part, and other ‘recycled parts’. But the principles of the tiny house were here, just more extreme. Oh and more science than you would think for old tyres, cans and dirt. This intrigued me, sucked me right in. I wanted to learn more.

On the Narrowboat the electricity came from running the engines, generator, solar and wind. Usually a 12v and a 240v, via an inverter, system is used. Today a fridge, freezer, lighting, phone, I-pad, camera, iron, kettle and many more items can use a 12v system thus making batteries last longer on an ‘off grid’ setup. The same can be said for the Tiny House and Earth-ships, except the engine. Nowadays there is a battery for a normal house, charged from solar panels, so how efficiently could one be used in a house designed to be super efficient?

Water is a premium on all three, the Earth-ships however, harvest the rain water. Something I have yet to see on a Narrowboat or Tiny House. But I never said mine would not be connected to the mains, just on a meter for the water usage, if any, supplied by the water company, I do live in a rather wet country.

Storage – this one is won hands down by the Tiny Houses, space is at such a premium there is some fantastic spacial designs and multi functional uses of storage. Some that could be implemented on the Narrowboats as well if the Tiny House movement gains more popularity this side of the pond, and why is the Atlantic Ocean called ‘the pond’ whilst your lakes are called ‘great’? (one for my American readers)

Back on topic…

Heating – all three utilise the small multi fuel stove or gas bottle heating or both. In a small space the action of cooking with gas burners will also warm the house.But there is new technology available that can store heat, generated by solar or collected ‘waste heat’ from another source, for later use, they can even transport it, mind boggling I know.

Solar – You may be forgiven if you think this is already covered electricity, but the Earth-ships and Tiny Houses use the sun passively as well. The tiny houses have been known to use blackened cans in a wooden frame as a kind of solar still, the reverse of a radiator, to get free warmth into the house. The angle of the glass frontage of the Earth-ship is at such it uses the full heat collection of the sun in the winter and some even use the sun to heat a water tank. The suns heat is actually stored in the walls and floors to radiate throughout the home in the darkened hours of the day. How well this would work in a non desert environment I don’t know, but at the end of the day its free heating. This glass area is also a greenhouse segment of the building and leads us back to water.

Water – part two. Recycling and the Earth-ships go hand in hand, it is at its very core of its existence. This is where they get very clever with water. The rain water is collected, filtered for drinking and showering, dishes etc, the waste water goes to a planter in the greenhouse, the runoff water goes to a filter then a tank, some systems then pump it back to the planter on a timer creating a loop, this water also gets used to flush the toilet, ingenious yes? But wait, it’s not finished its journey yet, the toilet waste goes to a septic tank and then to an overflow field, however the overflow field is usually more self contained than standard overflow field, going rather into a lined area, gravelled and planted, normally ornamental plants, this way the plants are part of the waste management system and final recycling part of the waters process. How much water does a ‘normal’ house waste in comparison?

Now I am not an ageing hippy, nor a new age hippy, green vegan or a fringe movement activist. Nor am I a tree hugger or one of those ‘environmentalists’, I am just interested in being able to live in my own home and to be able to LIVE, but I do accept the fact I am aware I live in and affect ‘the’ environment, so if I can design a house that lessens my footprint I should.

Previously I just worked to pay bills, 90% of my working hours was for bills and essentials, and I usually had two jobs, one of them full time. I like many others, worked hard and played hard, that beer time at the end of the week was earned, deserved even, for putting up with job I hated, but one I needed to pay the bills. That beer time was the goal to be reached for many a week, the mind altering, perception changing beer time. Oh how it made me comply with the norm for the rest of the week. But I don’t want that life now, I don’t want to have to numb the week away at the weekend, just to repeat it all over again the following week.

I could, theoretically, buy an acre of land and build a home for half the price of a terraced house, yes it would be a smaller but it would be more self sustainable. It could still be on the grid, it would be a combination of the Tiny House, Earth-ship and even the Narrowboat (in terms of energy/water usage). The look would be more akin to the Tiny House with the greenhouse aspect of the Earth-ships. I also like the idea of the water collection from the Earth-ships as well as the water recycling. I don’t want the shed look but rather the – ‘this is a small home for one/a couple’ look, smart, practical, environmentally friendly and just in case the chap who predicted the drop in oil production in the 2030s and therefore the massive price hike in all things that utilise oil for transportation of goods or services, one that could manage ‘off grid’ should the grid fail due to our reliance on oil, and our shortsightedness on ‘alternative’ energy creation other than the toxic, radioactive waste producing nuclear plants. Oh and one that could produce fresh, in season fruits and vegetables, right on my doorstep and not requiring paying for an allotment.

It may be a dream, but it is an achievable dream.

Reflections…Week Ten

canstockphoto8630797Positive well-being was the course for this week.

Run by Brighter Futures and Echo, these free learning courses cover subjects, in my opinion, that should be taught in schools, and here I am half a lifetime later just learning how to social interact.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for one minute blame my teachers for the playground bullying and the social awkwardness I felt, nor do I think that the teachers should be doing these subjects whilst teaching other subjects, I think this should be a class of its own. Self development. I believe the school “holiday’s” at Stanley Head was the closest I got to this.

But this was out of context to normal life, most of my bullies were of an older age, so not there, and as every “team event” from that point onwards seems to be sorted – outcasts were paired or grouped with outcasts.

Could my life have been different if I was taught how to recognise different personality types, therefore having mine recognised for its benefits, and how to best interact and work with each? If I was taught how to build my self esteem, would that have put an end to the bullying, at work if not at the school? Would I have not turned down promotions, because I had been told by my peers at school that I was worthless, so could not possibly hold the position? Could I take rejection better, or even praise? Could I have been a better human being?

The term human being may seem a little odd, de-personalised even, and in a sense it is. Having had the point in my life of being so low as to be sectioned, being sectioned is not the same for everybody -this is my own personal account – and questioning the very existence of the world around me whilst trying to comprehend the in-comprehensible implosion of my life. Implosion does not even begin to explain the complete claustrophobia, of ones own minds creation, and the fears it creates to try and protect itself, but I could not fathom a better word that describes the inward collapse without referencing some obscure theoretical physics reference.  You become the ultimate weapon to defeat yourself.

But through therapies, courses, art and persistence, I have started to realise that my actions of the past were heavily influenced by the negative actions of others.  Some where quite literally beat into me, and to my shame, I interacted with others the same way. This also had the effect of making me easily manipulatable, having a previously unknown sense  of wanting to please, easily falling for a “distress story” requiring help and being self destructive within my personal life.

It’s easy to look back and say “yes, it could have!”, but strangely this action would hold me back from going forward, would have..should have..could have.. belongs to the Three Stooges, not me.

I may be a late starter in self development, but a start I have made, its kind of like learning a new language, you either have to be taught it or shown how to implement it through interactions with a range of people in a controlled positive environment, these courses do both.

Through the blogs I have learnt that it is not just what you have to say, but also the way you say it that impose barriers. I have to learn to replace I’m with I am, I’m has become a negative for me. Never do I go to the trouble of saying “I am not” it is always “I’m not” when the following words are negative. I have even been shown that no can be said in a more positive way.

This word simple swap and pause can empower…

“I, AM”

This is my way forward. This is my way to a better me.

I,am change!

I, am my future!

I, am now!

Reflections…Week Nine



A bug day out at the Staffs University.


Perfectly timed with my sons sleepover, there was a bug fair in town. Having bug hunting limited due to the winter, this looked like the perfect get out of the house event. Bugs are a cheap entertainment for him.

The pictures showed that kids had bugs on their hands and with child friendly events going on it looked like it had the potential, if not for disaster at least, to keep my niece occupied enough in her wheelchair, and my nephew (aged 1), well, occupied; just so long as he didn’t eat the bugs.

To be fair, the event was not what we were expecting, it was more a science show about the bugs, if my son did not have a geek for a dad it would have gone straight over his head, but the geek exposure meant he managed to hold an interest in the bugs on show. Pond life and worms were ‘a live show’, there was another table that had something on but dis-interest had set in by then, too many dead  bugs on all the other tables.

I think the different kinds of microscopes and magnifiers were of as much of an attraction as the bugs, as it allowed me to show him, in practice, what I was struggling to explain simply enough in terms, as to how different ones, than what we have, work. Plenty of styles on show, including one that linked up to a screen, this I think is going to be the way forward with both the microscope and astrological telescope.

Free literature was abundant and collected and all the stalls were hosted by cheerful staff. The venue was easy to get around and on one level, I also believe that refreshments were available at the cafe. Free entry and free parking meant that it was worth the punt. We made a bug hotel, a mask and coloured a couple of bugs in, a couple were bought back for later.

If my son was 7-8 years old (he is 5), and it was just me and him, it would be a good geek day out. Alas, for now at least, it was a little too much science and not enough creeping/sliming crawlies to handle. This I believe would be the best way to engage the young into bug enthusiasts, one of the aims of the show.

The scientists seem to have forgotten that a little  gross is good in a child’s eyes.

Photo by omri yonatan. Published on 28 February 2017
Stock photo – Image ID: 100526418