Category Archives: Opinion

A letter to those who believe the UK has too many immigrants #EUreferendum

I was going to talk this week about my book, about my new novel being published, but do you know what? I’m not going to do that. I can’t. You see, last week the UK voted to leave the European Union and it has – and I don’t lie when I say this –  had a catastrophic effect on the country.

It’s a country I no longer recognise. People are being downright mean to others. Men and women are shouting at immigrants in the street, on buses, in schools at Polish people, Romanian people, anyone, basically, who doesn’t look ‘British,’ yelling to them, and I quote, ‘Get out of our country.’ Heads should be hung in shame. I am an immigrant. I am Irish. My family came to the UK when I was very young, my dad in search of work and a home, and I remember when we were little, kids running after us, repeating the words of their parents, shouting, ‘Oi, Paddies – get out.’ That was in the seventies. Nothing changes.

Now I have children, 12 and 14 years old, two beautiful, strong, intelligent girls whom I adore. Whom I would do anything for. So when I read today by chance the Save The Children stories on Syrian refugees my heart broke. Accounts from a boy of 14 being beaten. A boy of 6 being treated ‘like a dog’ and left to die with no food and water. A father having to flee with his family because he wouldn’t join the militia and so they said they would kill him.

And I read this, tears down my face and I made myself imagine my own children – of the same age – in the Syrian children’s shoes. My beautiful girls beaten and starved, enduring day after day of shelling.

And as I think of those Syrian refugees, so many of them the same age as my girls, I realise more and more that we can no longer keep everything we have to ourselves. We can’t think, hey, stuff them, this is our country, we’re too bloody full.

And so,  I urge you to ask yourself: what if it was you?

What if, in the British town where you live, bombings were happening all around you? School bombed, no food or water. No Tesco’s or nights out? What if militia took your children and were using them as human shields? What if the children were being beaten in schools used as torture centres, where they are hung from their feet? What would you do, parents? These are your children, your grandchildren. What would you do?

I’ll tell you: you’d do everything in your god damn power to escape. You’d get your kids and the clothes on your back and you’d pay a man in a boat, whatever money he wanted, to get away and save your beautiful children. And you’d hope that after the awful, unimaginable journey where you have no food and might die, you’d be welcome with open arms and looked after and your plight would be understood. But wait! Because when you get there, not only are you subjected to humiliating questions, but people like Nigel Farage think there are too many immigrants, using Nazi-like posters to drive fear and hate, and so you are confused. You didn’t do anything wrong – you just wanted to protect your beautiful little family. But  people, when they see you, instead of opening their arms out wide and saying, ‘Welcome,’ they snarl at you and tell you to, ‘Fuck off back to where you came from.’ But, of course, where you came from was a living hell. So which is better? What are you supposed to do?

Who will help you?

We are one world. We all live on the same planet. We are a global community. No one gave us the right to keep stuff all to ourselves. Think on this: when our kids were little, what did we always try to teach them? To share. So why should that sharing end as adults, as people and politicians?  Why not do it now? SHARE.

To all those who voted to leave the EU, quoting that there are too many immigrants in the UK, I implore you to look at people with kindness. I ask you to take a moment and see in their eyes yourself, and imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes. Take a moment, just a few seconds now, the bombings, the torture…

It’s hard to swallow, isn’t it? But here’s the rub: we are all human – different, yet all the same. And it’s only when we live with that thought in our hearts, with knowing that the place where we live now, this nice, relatively safe country that is the UK – well, it’s only by coincidence that we were born here, a stroke of luck. And we must use that luck wisely and kindly.

Please, please, let’s look after each other. And let’s share all we have.

Nikki

Here’s the Save the Children collection of Syrian children refugee stories. Please, do, if you have a moment, read it. Thank you

Have you got a minute to support #AutismTMI?

Stacked_LogoToo Much Information #AutismTMI is The National Autistic Society’s biggest campaign to date

It’s designed to raise awareness of autism, and will begin with the start of World Autism Awareness week from 2nd-8th April. THE ENTIRE CAMPAIGN WILL RUN FOR TWO YEARS AND AIMS TO DRASTICALLY INCREASE UNDERSTANDING OF AUTISM EVERYWHERE.

This is a cause very, very close to my heart. Not only is the main character of my novels a woman on the autistic spectrum, but I know friends and children with autism, and the more we can do to make sure we understand all about it, what it is truly like for them (and their parents), the better. Just showing an understanding of each other, taking time to hear what things are like for others, no matter what their situation, is always a calm and happy thing.  That’s a good kind of world to live in, right?

You can sign their map now to show your support. It just takes a minute, but means the world. Click here.

Also, if you ever wondered what going to a shopping mall is like when you have autism, watch this #awareness

Imagine if your education was taken away

UnknownHands up if you liked school? What’s that? Not many hands? If you didn’t fancy school that much, chances are you’re from a comfortable westernised country where school is taken for granted and hating it is the norm. And why not? Go ahead, fill your boots – hating school as a kid is like a right of passage.

But, just for a second, imagine this: what if school was taken away? What if you, as a female, for example, were told that, because of your gender, school was not an option? Or imagine if  your country were thrown into a brutal war and for your children, say, school was impossible to attend, in fact, even day to day normal living was nearly impossible and the only option you are left with is to flee your homeland to search for the safety of another. Only to be told to go away.

Today is International Literacy Day and in the wake of the European refugee crisis, the poignancy of literacy and the opportunity it provides has never seemed more relevant. Literacy, see, comes through schooling, but not all children have the chance to attend school. Syria’s oppressive regime, war and economic sanctions, have meant many children are denied what we here see as a right: the right to education. And take Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen just for going to school. 

We owe it to these children to have a better outlook, here in the west, on education, to regard the opportunities we have with respect and truly understand that, what we take as regular, normal – boring even – others see as the pinnacle of what life is about: ambition, learning, literacy. A chance, basically, at a good and full life.

So today on International Literacy Day let’s all pause to think about those children – boys & girls- who through violent war, oppression and economic strain cannot attend school. And how different it is to our own lives. And how damn lucky we are.

What do you think? Join in and comment below.

Random Ramblings: Mitt & Barack could do I’m A Celebrity if they lose. Vote now!

It’s Random Ramblings, a new ad-hoc post where I take a wry look at politics and popular culture, and give my opinion on a hot topic of the day. Like, today, I come up with an ingenious solution to Barack or Mitt potentially losing the US election…

Right, Barack, look. I know it’s an election, dude, but listen, if you don’t win, if that bloke Romney packs his binder full of voting women and takes it all the way to the White House, then fear not! I have a solution. Well, not me personally, but, bizarrely, a British MP does. Namely, a certain Nadine Dorries.

For it has been announced today that Nadine is to enter – indeed she’s in Australia NOW (watch out) – TV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. She will be the first serving – that’s right, serving – British Member of Parliament to go on the programme. You know those moments when your jaw hits the floor?

Yes, Nadine Dorries, the self-styled ‘Bridget Jones of Westminster’ (her words, not mine) is currently on route to jungle. She will be spending two weeks of her time starring on a TV programme, eating scorpions and kangaroo’s wotsits, as opposed to serving the people in her Mid-Bedfordshire constituency.

But wait! Worried that this woman may be shirking her parliamentary responsibilities? Concerned that she’s having a right old sunny jolly while back in the UK we are struggling to pay the rising fuel bills in the winter? Well, fear no more because the woman is there to raise issues. Honest.  Nadine has been quoted saying that she is taking part in I’m a Celebrity so she can ‘raise awareness about issues such as reducing abortion time from 24 to 20 weeks.’ Oh, thank you, Nadine! Thank you so much for trying to single handily reduce women’s rights AND make out like we’re all free-loading, lazy Bridgets who love the media limelight and be damned with work. Who needs women’s equality anyway?  Sooo overrated. Anyway, right, if you don’t work you can go on benefits, yeah? Oh, wait. No. The coalition government are cutting welfare…Oh well.

So, you see Barack, or (please God) Mitt? If you lose the USA elections today, you have no worries. A fall back plan is in place, trail-blazed by Nadine/Bridget! You don’t have to concern your selves talking about creating a fairer US healthcare system or wax lyrical on reducing unemployment rates. Nope.  You now only have to shout one thing and one thing alone to be a successful politician – I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! God help us all.

Vote now!

Hillsborough: An open letter to journalists

Today, a Government paper was released. It finally revealed the long-awaited truth of what happened at Hillsborough 23 years ago where 96 people died attending a football match. Here, I write an open letter to all journalists on how we have a duty of care to ensure the appalling reporting carried out by The Sun newspaper of the disaster never happens again…

Journalism is a vital organ. When it works well, it can break down walls. It can change laws and it can bare the truth. But when it doesn’t work, it can cost lives.

23 years ago a football match was played. The ground was Hillsborough, the clubs were Nottingham Forest – and Liverpool. What happened that day will never be forgotten. 96 Liverpool football fans that day lost their lives watching a game they loved. They were crushed against fences, they fought for air. It was a scene no one wishes to ever see and one that, for its victims and their families, is seared onto their brains forever.

Immediately, journalists were on the scene reporting live, ensuring that the nation knew what was happening, which is as expected. But then a British newspaper – The Sun – subsequently wrote an article that blasted everything to pieces. The Sun printed an article that slated the victims. Its source, as it turned out, was the police. The Sun decided to run with the source and the result was a front page headline that blamed the Hillsborough disaster on the Liverpool fans. It said they were drunk. It said they were fighting. It was utterly and without question, appalling journalism.

The UK Government report into the disaster today has finally outed the truth. The Sun newspaper has publicly apologised, citing its ‘deep sense of shame’ for it’s reporting of 23 years back.

As writers, we must learn from this. Journalists have a duty. That duty is to be fair. To report the truth. To not let prejudice blind our words. To not be coloured by what we perceive to be true  as opposed to what the real truth is. Because truth is what this all boils down to. The truth of what happened on that terrible day. The truth of what the police did, thought, acted upon. The truth that The Sun journalists decided to portray. The truth that the victims’ families always knew.

So, may journalists always do their duty. You must realise the responsibility that comes with your job. People’s lives are in your hands, at your fingertips. When you report, be fair. Be truthful. Be good human beings. Otherwise, please, do not be a journalist.

Latest column now out and it’s all about the Olympics…

It’s Thursday so it’s “Column Day” where I post my weekly newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about the Olympics and their value to us and future generations. To read it, simply click to my Column page.

Hope you like it. Thanks for reading!

**Look out for tomorrow’s brand new post, “Friday Fact or Fiction”. This week I’ll be posting an extract from a short story of mine**

How to avoid getting addicted to the Internet

Welcome to  the new Weekend Watch“, my new  Friday morning blog post that looks at weekend events, be it news, books, or a little bit of fun.

As comedian Peter Kay says, the t’internet. This week’s Weekend Watch kicks off with the results of a poll I posted last week. The vote question was ‘Do you switch off from the internet when you go on holiday?’ Hmm, come on, admit it, you know it’s a tricky thing – and turns out you’re not alone, because a whopping 57% said that, if they went on holiday, they couldn’t do without the Internet. Take a ganders at the results….

The results to the poll, “‘Do you switch off from the Internet when you go on holiday:

57% No

27% Yes

14% Other

Thing is, more and more these days, the Internet, along with social media, smart phones and apps, is a growing part of our lives. As a writer, I find the Internet invaluable. Years ago, if I wanted to research something for an article or story, I would have to go to the library or trawl the papers, both of which could take up a good few days of my time. Now, though, things couldn’t be more different. The book I am currently writing is about a category one murder convict, so I need to know about prisons, criminal law, the appeal system.  Within just a couple of hours of web surfing, I can have the beginnings of some solid research, so much so that I now know about different aspects of prison life not just from a warden’s view, but from the viewpoint of  a convict inside – amazing.

And that’s the thing – the web is amazing. But with it, comes a darker side.  Type ‘Internet Disorder’ into Google, and you’ll get an array of websites and articles detailing the increasing rise of apparent dependency on the Internet. Sites such as psychcentral.com posted an interesting article on net addiction, sighting three stages of addiction, namely: enchantment, disillusionment and finally, balance. They do, however, speculate in the article that while the term, “Internet addiction” is spouted widely, the terms “book addiction”, or “TV addiction” are not (although, they haven’t met my kids…)

Further searching throws up more articles on the subject – and ones that are a little more cause for concern. The Telegraph newspaper published an article back in January, 2012, stating that research has identified that Internet users who become dependent on being online have shown signs of changes in the brain similar to alcoholics and cocaine addicts. Oh crikey. Now, while we mustn’t use this as cause for panic, it does throw up some interesting questions. How many of us have ignored our spouses, kids, because we are answering a text or tweet? (Come on, hands up…) Or, how many of you have ended up on Facebook till the wee hours after originally telling yourself that you’d only be on there for half an hour and then you’re off to bed? Hmmm? I know I have. And the rest.

I think, really, that the key is to find a balance. The Internet undoubtedly has enriched our lives. Information is available in a split second, social media can quite literally cause life-changing democratic revolutions and books can be written (hopefully for the better) with the aid of speedy broadband connections. However, with this 24-hour connection comes the constant pressure to never switch off, to always be in touch with others and, sometimes, at the detriment of those who we love around us. For me, personally, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook et al, they are all invaluable. But, there are times when I know it is wise for me to turn my back on it all, just for a while, and take a break. Thing is, can you?

Ooo, look out for my new regular Friday afternoon post, “Weekend Waffling” out later on today…

April Fools jokes end up in some mild mannered madness

So, our family April Fools jokes are over, we’re off on holiday in a couple of hours and I can’t wait. I seem, however, to be having some trouble getting the troops moving. The youngest is currently playing her guitar in the lounge the eldest is reading in her room – and my husband is still in bed. Having a break right now has come at a good time. The past week has been hectic and, to be honest, my head is fried. ‘What are those black things under your eyes?’ asks my youngest. I peer into the mirror and pull at my skin. ‘They are my dark circles, honey,’ I reply. But she doesn’t say anything. I turn around and she is already gone. From the lounge, I hear the ping of her guitar.

And so I find myself here, catching up on some last minute inbox sorting and having a small write of my blog. If I think about it, over the past few weeks I’ve met some really nice people via the old blogging thing,  switching on the laptop  and reading messages from folks from all over the world who are writing away about different things. Films, books, turning into our parents – the list goes on. I think that when I leave in an hour or two, I’ll go away with the resolution that, when I come back, I’ll read more blogs and get involved a bit more. That would be nice.

The littlest one is down in the kitchen now with her teddies, and she is beside herself about our holiday. ‘Honey,’ I say, ‘could you just bring the hot cocoa up to your sister while I write this.’ She cocks her head at me and simply says, ‘No.’  My mouth hangs open in surprise. Then she says, ‘April Fool!’, grabs the cocoa, droplets splattering over the edge onto the floor, and races upstairs. ‘But it’s 2nd April today,’ I mutter to myself, ‘isn’t it?’ I return to my laptop and check the date. It reads 2nd April. ‘Dear God,’ I announce to an empty kitchen, ‘I’m going mad.’ I reach down and pack my mini laptop into my bag ready to take it with me so I can keep on writing novel number two while we’re on holiday. From upstairs, a shriek sounds. ‘The cat’s brought in a mouse!’ yells the eldest. I sigh and shout that I’m on my way.