enough is enough

enough is enough

We know it is ‘not all men’.

We know that he was a ‘just bad un’ in the Metropolitan Police force.

This is endemic and it has to stop. Politicians have to stop pissing about diluting rights and step up, because the cuts you’ve made to services and the lack of action is causing violence against women worldwide is at a crisis point. But when every single woman you know has either been verbally, physically or sexually assaulted; when do you say – this has to stop?

When it affects your family? Because someone in your family will have already been followed and made to feel uncomfortable when they were out shopping or walking.

When it affects a friend? Because your friend would have already laughed awkwardly at a joke about what they were wearing, saying, doing. When your friend tried to get away because she felt uncomfortable, they would have already been told to ‘lighten up love’ or ‘it might never happen’ or ‘frigid cow, can’t you take a joke?’

When it affects your sister? Because your sister has already been leered at in public. And now arseholes are putting tiny cameras in changing rooms and bathrooms, because leering at us in public isn’t enough for some people.

What about when your daughter has to have a tracking app on their phone active all the time, only wears one earphone, carries her keys in her hand as a weapon. They try not to walk at nigh;, but if they’re on a zero-hour contract and need to eat that week, they might not have the money for the bus if they get called into work a late shift, or the money for a taxi, an uber or a lyft. Even then, they could be locked into the back of the car and taken, drugged, abused, killed.

Please, as a male, link together that when you don’t call out behaviour in a bar, or in a chat group, or online because you are scared about what could happen to you; you have to multiply that fear for being a woman. Multiply that fear again for being a woman of colour. Multiply that fear again by being gender fluid or trans.

Intersectionality is a fairly new concept, but the data points are growing. If you are a straight, white, male, good for you. You’ve hit jackpot in this patriarchal, sexist, racist, misogynistic society. The chances are you are probably teflon coated, because you have an army of cronies who will vouch for your ‘banter’. You probably think the law and rules don’t matter to you, because there are a buffet of people in suits who will line up to defend your actions; while dragging the name, reputation and image of your victim through the mud.

If you’re a person who identifies themself on the LGBTQI+ spectrum, or is a person of colour, anything you do just to live in this world will be taken and used against you. Twisted as being corrupt or harmful to ‘the poor children’. Expressing yourself through make-up, ew! Wearing and having your hair, inappropriate! Falling over and hitting your head on a wall in your cell, you’re drunk and we won’t take adequate care of you; in fact we’ll drag you over your bed by one arm damaging your body further. Rainbows, that is the devils work. We must protect the children!

Although the churches and institutions will close ranks and protect the people in power to protect their reputation first.

It is not all men, but it will take all of us to stand up and call it out. To say ‘that is not ok’ and to be strong, resolute and not back down in the face of adversity. Because, we’re done.

We’re done with this bullshit.

We’re done with women being told what they need to do to protect themselves, instead of men being told to not be arseholes.

We’re fed up of being scared all the time.

We’re tired of being told we need to look like plastic dolls with our hair extended, lips blown up, false nails, fake-tanned orange skin, eye lashes extended, blue-white teeth, dieted to the bone, but with breast and butt implants, and don’t forget your need to draw your eyebrows on if they’re not up to expectations.

I want to go to the gym, do my work out and not be expected to arrive in full make-up. Or to have to fend off people who want to ‘spot me’. Or tell me that I’m doing it wrong, ‘here let me correct manhandle you’. Or film me.

I want to go for a massage without the workers there having to put signs up asking you to leave your underwear on.

I want to walk listening to an audiobook with headphones in both ears.

I want to feel safe to try clothes on or use a public bathroom, without having to check there’s a camera in the cubicle or hiding under the toilet seat.

I want to run to the shops without make-up on and not be told ‘you like tired today love, have you tried putting some make-up on’.

I want to be able to concentrate on something when I’m at work or out without being told to ‘smile’.

I want to be heard in meetings the first time I speak, not to have what I’ve said repeated later and then agreed upon as a good idea.

I want men to be able to stand up against a bully and be cheered on, not to feel scared that they’re going to get hit, knifed or shot.

I want everyone at any training session or match for any sport who falls over to be able to take note of what happened to them, without being yelled at to ‘get up you girl’.

I want professional male soccer players to stop falling over and pretending they’re hurt to get an advantage. You’ve got enough of an advantage.

I want trans people to be able to compete safely in their chosen sport.

I want men to feel their feelings and be brave enough to ask for help, instead of thinking they need to toughen up.

I want men to do household chores when they see dishes need to be done, not because they’ve been asked to do them. Because you are supposed to be an equal in the relationship, not a delegate.

I want people to be able to trust that if a police officer shows their ID, they know they are in the police force.

I want organisations and politicians to stop hiding their money in offshore accounts, so everyone can afford to go to the doctor, dentist, a good public school.

Times Up.

the story behind the story

the story behind the story

I first started writing One Last Hundred Chances around 2004 or 2005, I’d just left my hometown of Eastbourne and the characters pretty much wandered into my head unannounced.

Hazel, Freya, Chris, Abigail; the four school friends who formed the core narrative have all had different tangents and storylines. Because of this, I can actually see them as four fully-rounded people, foibles and all, which I hope comes through in the story. Stella and her husband Steve, Chris’ partner Jono, Abigail and her husband Scott, with their two children, Amelie and Scarlett, have also all been loafing around in various guises for a while too.

I guess there is a bit of me in all of them, although when I go to the beach, I will never look as good or as put together as Stella. In one version, Stella originally worked part-time as a dominatrix; a few chapters was the four of them and Steve fitting out her studio. I had fun with that one, but as they lived in Brighton, I shelved it as too much of a cliché.

Also removed was the scene I wrote about Chris coming out to his parents. Last year’s pandemic meant (like many others) I inhaled Schitt’s Creek. I loved the world that Dan and Eugene Levy created, particularly the complete lack of homophobia. I do feel the more that occurs, the bigotry and asshat-ness will be shown up for the revolting behaviour that it is.

One of the first scenes I wrote was the shopping trip around The Lanes, although it had a mercy mission with Hazel and Stella rescuing Freya from buying up half of Lush. Another early scene was one in Lewes, where I had all the girls meeting for lunch. I talked about ‘starting out at the base-camp of Boots and walking up School Hill’, for those of you who’ve walked up it, you’ll know how steep it is.

Then The Duchess appeared. Freya’s mum, who is a truly awful person, avid social climber and will not stop until she’s driven her family to their expected status in life. The car trip from Brighton to Eastbourne, hospital visit and Freya’s family history fell out of me. I particularly like Freya’s sister Victoria saying that even though she lives in New Zealand “It’s still not far enough away.” When you read that section, neither I nor Wendi, my wonderful editor, needed to change much in it. Except for my tenses, as I get them all arse about face, and think I always will do.

But for the next few years, not much happened. I’d add bits in, rewrite other bits, tinker, fiddle. However, nothing much came from it. I had probably 20-30,000 words (about a third of a novel), but other than ‘school friends, keep it small’ I didn’t really know what to do the four of them, or with it.

So the four of them would linger in my imagination, I’d make occasional notes in my phone or on emails to myself. My writing process is odd, insofar that I will hear a sentence in my head and whoosh, off I go and out it comes. And amazingly, if I make a note of that sentence, even months later, I can still riff off it.

Then, our house got broken into. The bastards took so much; jewellery, watches, small electrical stuff, even packed things into our bags to cart it out the house. They also took our Mac, which had baby photos on, and everything that we’d had on USB sticks, because the memory was so big, why wouldn’t we put it on the Mac?

As an aside, despite having individual serial numbers, apparently you can’t trace a stolen Mac with them. Which is maddening.

We went through everything we could find to try and find the files we’d lost. We had some files in the cloud, but not everything. We had some files on external hard-drives, but not everything. Friends started emailing and texting photos of our son as a baby, but the book, other than what was in my head was gone.

I gave it up as a lost cause and forgot about it. In the interim, I was having problems with my lady bits, after backwards and forwards for seven years and thirty-odd years of horrendous periods, I was finally scheduled to have a hysterectomy in April 2019. Hurrah! I hired a hospital table to go over the bed, as until the surgeon started, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to perform the surgery via key-hole. Reader, he did. However, just in case I was opened up stem to stern, I wanted something I could read / colour-in and rest my laptop on to watch movies if not.

I bounced back really well, I had six weeks off work to recuperate. I pulled out my laptop and started writing. I cleared two or three 10,000 word days in the first week re-writing what I’d lost and found that the plot had changed. Domestic violence and coercive control was coming through thick and fast in the behaviour towards Hazel from Ronnie. I got more of the book down, let my imagination run riot on plotting and settled in to do some research.

Going online and following breadcrumbs, I found my way into a couple of Reddit forums and a closed Facebook group. I lurked for a bit, then started sharing things that had happened to me, encouraged other people to report and then I posted this:

I am writing a novel about coercive control and DV, do any of you want to share your stories with me? If you’re happy for me to include them, I will ensure nothing will identify you. Is there something that happened to you that you would use as a red flag? Is there a story you want to tell so you can let it go?

I set up a seperate email address, and slowly stories and messages started to come in. My research continued and then I listened to a BBC Woman’s Hour article on the eight escalation steps abusers follow, more information from the BBC here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49481998

This was my framework, I had a clear pattern of behaviour I could make Ronnie follow. Using different memories and dialogue from the people who emailed me their stories, the book started coming together.

I was working for a sociopath and after six (hellish) months, out of the blue, I got a call from a recruiter who asked if I was looking for a change, I jumped at the chance to move. Then the pandemic hit in March 2020. The whole world was upended, DV incidents started to spike and I knew, I just knew I had to get the book finished and out into the world.

I looked at the ‘normal’ publishing route, and was horrified at the length of time it would take. People didn’t have that long! So I investigated self-publishing and put feelers out for an editor on Upworthy. Enter Wendi from https://www.cuttingecopy.com/ I gave her and another editor the dream sequence, followed by the shopping trip in Brighton and the hospital visit to read for a trial run. The other editor put it all into Hemingway and sent it back to me, Wendi went through with a fine toothed comb, made some great suggestions and off we went.

I printed out a calendar of each year from 1996 to 2006, plotting everything in from TV events and movie releases, FA Cup Finals, to concerts at Wembley, Bank Holidays, anything and everything I could think of to remind me. I listened to music from that period all the time, memories came flooding back about what it was like to live then. It pays to be a pop-culture nerd at times.

I set myself publication date of 1 October 2020. I gave Wendi everything I’d written to edit and tidy up, while I carried on with what I needed to write. We would spend ages on video conferences chatting about the story, working it out, talking things through until one call when Wendi said, “You’re going to have to show Ronnie hitting Hazel. Everything is about her being worried about it, or she’s in the aftermath, we need a scene where he does it.” We made that the middle of the book as it’s the fulcrum point.

I am so proud of it. Even if I got the formatting and pagination a bit skewiff in the first version and only realised when my author copies arrived. I’ve also added more resources at the back. The book took fifteen years to be finished, but is all the better for the delay. While I’m hard at work on book two, when I put that last full-stop down on One Last Hundred Chances will always be one of my proudest moments.

one last hundred chances

one last hundred chances

My first novel One Last Hundred Chances is out now.

A unique book, based on eight domestic abuse survivors’ lives, woven together to show how the recognised patterns of behaviour occur in a relationship.

Survivors who shared their stories with me not only to reclaim their narrative; but in the hope that by sharing their worst experiences, someone will recognise or understand what is happening to them, and be strong enough to leave.

Hazel finds herself in a relationship she didn’t want. As her family and friends fight to keep hold of her, Hazel is in the fight for her life. Slowly being robbed of her identity and individuality, she must somehow find the courage to break free of her controlling partner. How many chances will she give him before she finally manages to escape?

Set in the quintessential English seaside town of Eastbourne from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, the story is a reflection of changing times. Hazel is a bright young woman whose persona is slowly and deliberately being eroded by her ‘loving’ partner while trying to hold on to the heady optimism of being young in 1990s England.

From the simpler time of fax machines and those indestructible Nokia phones, it’s a retrospective tale of one woman’s struggle to hold on to herself in a time of constant flux and an insight into the lasting impact of manipulative relationships.

An emotional read for all of those women who once ‘lost themselves’ for the sake of love, and to all those who refound their inner ‘me’ years later…

I’ll share the story about how I started writing it shortly, and how it ended up being a completely different book from what I thought it would be.