Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lent is coming - a time for change.

Blob Lent

Paperback, 86 Pages 

Lent is a time for change. It has always been so, and always will be. It is the journey towards the most significant event in human history - the death and resurrection of Jesus. This book enables the reader to reflect on why Jesus went into the desert and how we can apply those same ideas in our day to day lives. Each day includes actions and an opportunity for personal reflection using both words and unique images created for this book. An ideal resource for a personal companion during these forty special days.

Emotional Evolution.

29 seconds of your eyes to meet poverty

I visited.
Cape Town
South Africa
Absolute poverty
feel it
take a glance
work for JUSTICE

If we are not part of the solution
we are part of the problem.


'My battle with #depression and the two things it taught me' Ben Locker

My battle with depression and the two things it taught me
Ben Locker
I’ve spent a decade slipping in and out of depression, but thanks to the right medicine and loving people, I’m back to being me again

 ‘Depression progressively eats away your whole being from the inside.’ Photograph: Aurumarcus/Getty Images

It’s often said that depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s part of it, of course, but to compare the life-sapping melancholy of depression to normal sadness is like comparing a paper cut to an amputation. Sadness is a healthy part of every life. Depression progressively eats away your whole being from the inside. It’s with you when you wake up in the morning, telling you there’s nothing or anyone to get up for. It’s with you when the phone rings and you’re too frightened to answer it.

It’s with you when you look into the eyes of those you love, and your eyes prick with tears as you try, and fail, to remember how to love them. It’s with you as you search within for those now eroded things that once made you who you were: your interests, your creativity, your inquisitiveness, your humour, your warmth. And it’s with you as you wake terrified from each nightmare and pace the house, thinking frantically of how you can escape your poisoned life; escape the embrace of the demon that is eating away your mind like a slow drip of acid.

And always, the biggest stigma comes from yourself. You blame yourself for the illness that you can only dimly see.

So why was I depressed? The simple answer is that I don’t know. There was no single factor or trigger that plunged me into it. I’ve turned over many possibilities in my mind. But the best I can conclude is that depression can happen to anyone. I thought I was strong enough to resist it, but I was wrong. That attitude probably explains why I suffered such a serious episode – I resisted seeking help until it was nearly too late.

Let me take you back to 1996. I’d just begun my final year at university and had recently visited my doctor to complain of feeling low. He immediately put me on an antidepressant, and I got down to the business of getting my degree. The pills took a few weeks to work, but the effects were remarkable. Too remarkable. About six weeks in I was leaping from my bed each morning with a vigour and enthusiasm I had never experienced, at least not since early childhood. I started churning out first-class essays and my mind began to make connections with an ease that it had never done before.

The only problem was that the drug did much more. It broke down any fragile sense I had of social appropriateness. I’d frequently say ridiculous and painful things to people I had no right to say them to. So, after a few months, I decided to stop the pills. I ended them abruptly, not realising how foolish that was – and spent a week or two experiencing brain zaps and vertigo. But it was worth it. I still felt good, my mind was still productive, and I regained my sense of social niceties and appropriate behaviour.

I had hoped that was my last brush with mental health problems, but it was not to be.

On reflection, I realise I have spent over a decade dipping in and out of minor bouts of depression – each one slightly worse than the last.

Last spring I was in the grip of depression again. I couldn’t work effectively. I couldn’t earn the income I needed. I began retreating to the safety of my bed – using sleep to escape myself and my exhausted and joyless existence.

So I returned to the doctor and told her about it. It was warm, and I was wearing a cardigan. “I think we should test your thyroid,” she said. “But an antidepressant might help in the meantime.” And here I realised, for all my distaste for the stigmatisation of mental illness, that I stigmatised it in myself. I found myself hoping my thyroid was bust. Tell someone your thyroid’s not working, and they’ll understand and happily wait for you to recover. Tell them you’re depressed, and they might think you’re weak, or lazy, or making it up. I really wanted it to be my thyroid. But, of course, when the blood test came back, it wasn’t. I was depressed.

So I took the antidepressant. And it worked. To begin with. A month into the course, the poisonous cloud began to lift and I even felt my creativity and urge to write begin to return for the first time in years. Not great literature, but fun to write and enjoyed by my friends on social media. And tellingly, my wife said: “You’re becoming more like the person I first met.”

It was a turning point. The drug had given me objectivity about my illness, made me view it for what it was. This was when I realised I had been going through cycles of depression for years. It was a process of gradual erosion, almost impossible to spot while you were experiencing it. But the effects of the drug didn’t last. By September I was both deeply depressed and increasingly angry, behaving erratically and feeling endlessly paranoid.

My wife threatened to frog march me back to the doctor, so I made an appointment and was given another drug. The effects have been miraculous. Nearly two months in and I can feel the old me re-emerging. My engagement and interest is flooding back. I’m back at work and I’m producing copy my clients really love. Only eight weeks ago, the very idea that I would be sitting at home tapping out a blog post of this length on my phone would have made me grunt derisively. But that is what has happened, and I am truly grateful to all those who love and care for me for pushing me along to this stage.

And now, I need to get back to work. Depression may start for no definable reason, but it leaves a growing trail of problems in its wake. The more ill I got, the less work I could do, the more savings I spent and the larger the piles of unpaid bills became. But now I can start to tackle these things.

If you still attach stigma to people with mental illness, please remember two things. One, it could easily happen to you. And two, no one stigmatises their illness more than the people who suffer from it. Reach out to them.


Nationwide Job Vacancies - spread them around


Friday, January 30, 2015

These are BIG thank yous

I would like to thank my arms, 
for always being by side. 
My legs, 
for always supporting me, 
my fingers…
I can always count on them


I still believe

BECOMING all that we can become.

An ability, within a developing skill, 
to recognise & monitor our own emotions 
and other people's emotions
and an ability to develop empathy with their emotions.
Alongside having ability to flexibly label/tag them appropriately 
(emotional Literacy), 
to use emotional information (signals) 
to guide our own thinking, 
attitude and behaviour 
to be 
Love with SKIN on !


In my mission of becoming
and helping others
to get on this road
of becoming .........
and journeying on 
(we cannot NOT journey ON
if we are on the road to becoming 
all that we can become)
I work at whole person development.

It seems to me that we need to develop
in all areas of life
not just one area / aspect.

We as outsiders cannot decide which area
another BHP develops.
We are all unique 
with unique life experiences
and particles of make-up
than anyone else on the planet.

Something important to me,
where I am at now,
and of course that will be different 
tomorrow - 
because I am always becoming -
is the emotional and spiritual.
In me
In others
In dynamics of groups

As I work with groups
more methods are being created.
More experiential exercises are unfolding
as I stretch myself and those around me.

(Every group is different.
Every group moves at a different pace
and I always have modules I can inject
depending on how open and ready
a group is or not).

Sometimes one person in a whole group of
even 50 - 100 people can influence the 
EQ by being riskily open about their life.
We can step up into taking risks for
our own collective development.

I love the quote from Anne Lamott.
"Never compare
your own
with someone else's

Get the inside
on the road to becoming
and we are on the best road.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

What day is it?

How do you behave under pressure?

I want to be in the Backstreets of Heaven .......

The Backstreets of Heaven

Paperback, 206 Pages 
     (1 Ratings) 
Price: £10.00
Ships in 3–5 business days
Pip is no stranger to books having written his early journey through youth work in the classic, 'Gutter Feelings' (also available on this website), amongst many others. In 'The Backstreets of Heaven', Pip explores his approaches to seeing the whole person develop through the wisdom of years. We can spend our lives doing, or being human… or as Pip describes, becoming human. This book explores that journey through words, reflections and illustrations. A book to inspire and challenge!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’

I identify with this article.
Feel it
Feel in it.

I am reading several books
often during the night when I awake.
One about communication.
One about the Brain.
One about Living out faith in the US.
One ......... well others.

I would like to read this one

The estate we’re in: 
how working class people became the ‘problem’

My study of St Ann’s in Nottingham where I lived for many years shows how pernicious the idea of the feckless poor has become. 
I will continue to fight against these stigmatising views

I am the daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter of Nottinghamshire miners. My mother worked at the Pretty Polly hosiery factory her whole life and I followed her at the age of 16 after leaving school in 1984 during the miners strike. We were a striking family and, to be honest, apart from following in the footsteps of my mother and aunties I hadn’t thought much further about what life might have to offer me. We needed the income that I would bring in as the strike hit my family hard and devastated my community forever.

I left Sutton-In Ashfield, the mining town where I grew up in 1988, as many young people started to do. As the mines, the factories, and hope left – so did we. I moved into the St Ann’s estate in the inner city of Nottingham and I had my son when I was 19.

Returning to Nottingham last week to launch my book Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain, has been difficult. Although I have been happy to see my friends and family, returning as a local woman made good has been unsettling. Being held up as “beating the odds”, “done good”, or “escaped” does not make me happy. It only compounds what I know about the brutal stigmatisation, and the devaluing process of working class people.

Unfortunately, offhand and casual comments relating to class prejudice and snobbery are very common. Now “I have made it”, I am not supposed to react angrily to it, I am supposed to know my place, and be grateful for getting out. However, I am angry and so are other working-class people when we have to deal with and hear these simplistic and stigmatising views of our lives. I have written about how working class life is misunderstood, and reduced to simplistic one-dimensional narratives from both the prurient poverty porn, but also the middle class do-gooders. We are not expected to attempt to defend our choices, become angry, or resist. Getting By was written to tackle this type of prejudice, and stereotype, and to explain the complexity of working-class life, and life on council estates.

The Sutton-in-Ashfield estate I grew up in, a mining town a few miles from Nottingham city centre, was a tight-knit community where almost everyone on the estate worked and lived in close proximity. I didn’t know that we were no good; I didn’t know that living on a council estate devalued you as a person. I understood my position in society as working class but I thought that was the best class to be. The middle class were boring, and the upper class were cruel – they hurt animals and sent their children away. This is how I thought about my family and my community during the 1970s. I was really thankful to be a working-class child.

During the late 1980s I felt very differently – almost ashamed of who we were. We were ridiculed, we were old-fashioned, poor, and didn’t know what was happening in the cool world of the “yuppie” and “loadsamoney” – a catchphrase made up by a middle-class comedian about working class people made good. I managed to get a council flat in St Ann’s because I had a baby and was homeless. Around the same time, John Major decided that young, working-class mothers were having babies purposefully to get a council house – this didn’t make me feel any better.

After my mother’s death in 1999, I knew that I wanted to do more with my life, perhaps be able to work in my community and give something back. Like many working-class women my community was important to me. I knew the difficulties of getting somewhere to live, negotiating the housing system, the benefits system, and the prejudices you can face. Especially from sometimes well-meaning authority figures working in these structures who can hold deep prejudices about working-class women. I remember meeting housing officers when my son was a baby and I needed somewhere to live and being told I should have thought about that before having sex. A midwife asking me what I had ready for the baby seeing as he didn’t have a father.

Eventually, aged 30, I enrolled on an Access to Social Work course. It was free because I wasn’t earning much money (now it would be £3,000). After a few months, I realised that I loved the learning. Instead of sitting at the back of the classroom messing about, which I had done at school, I was on the front row putting my hand up every five minutes. I went to the University of Nottingham because of a book I had found in the library: Poverty: The Forgotten Englishman, by Ken Coates and Bill Silburn – a community study carried out by the University of Nottingham’s adult education department with students in the mid 1960s. I didn’t know you could go to university to study the place where you lived, especially the places where I lived. To cut a long story short, exactly 10 years later, after an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, and a doctoral thesis, I had told the story of working class families in St Ann’s from a working-class perspective and in our own words.

Getting By is the outcome of eight years’ ethnographic study, based on both theory and practice. Working-class people, and the communities where they live have been devalued to such an extent that they are known simply as “problematic” and in need of making better. It is the deficit model that working class people have something wrong with them, which needs putting right by intervention, by carrots and sticks. They are misrepresented and devalued. This is damaging and painful at best, and dangerous and vicious at worst.

I have seen, experienced and written about how thought becomes action. How the Thatcher government’s rhetoric of “underclass” and “the enemy within” became an attack on working-class communities, despising them, destroying families and identities. New Labour did little better with its social exclusion model, where it took the concept of social justice from France that tried to explain how groups of poorer, working-class people were becoming excluded from society. New Labour subverted it into something about how poorer families were excluding themselves with their “wrongness”, their bad culture and bad practices. This led to almost 13 years of top-down middle-class philanthropic social work culture.

The consequence was an open door for the Centre for Social Justice thinktank and my nemesis, its founder and now work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan-Smith, to walk through and justify cruel austerity measures that are devastating and hurting poorer families. I see the Tories laughing as they argue in Westminster that “the free ride” is over for the “shirkers”. I am now a 46-year-old working class woman with a PhD. Although I have lived in council housing for all of my life and I have relied upon welfare benefits at many points in my life, and probably will again, I have never had a free ride.

Boarded-up shops on the St Ann’s estate, Nottingham. Photograph: David Sillitoe/The Guardian
My estate in Nottingham is in decline. The one Co-op supermarket has gone and in its place are corner shops that sell no food – only cheap alcohol, electric cards, and lottery tickets. There isn’t one single pub left on the estate, and local people sit on the walls where they once were with cans of cheap cider. This is perhaps one of the saddest things I have seen.

My estate in the mining village where I grew up is devastated; no work, no hope, pound shops and charity shops have replaced the local bakers, butchers and toy shop I remember as a child, although there is an enormous Asda superstore. And London, where I have lived for the last 18 months, is truly terrifying because of the callous ways working class people are treated, at any time you could become street homeless.

Even now when I have supposedly made it, I know that even a small rent rise on my privately rented ex-council flat in Tower Hamlets will see me out of the capital, where the super-rich and the politicians who bow to them are not even aware that we are here. A Labour council and a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government all seem to have the same opinion – that the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society are worthless.

However, my research, my book, and my own journey as a working-class woman who has earned a career at the London School of Economics, shows how wrong the mainstream politicians have got this. I have fought hard to get to a place with the networks that will allow me to have a platform to speak and to be heard. And I will continue to fight.


Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain by Lisa McKenzie, published by Policy Press is available at the Guardian Bookshop, priced £14.99