On my walk to the station three or four days a week I walk down what is locally known as the church path. The final bit of which runs alongside the graveyard and, not surprisingly, the church. Tucked under a tree is the grave of a WWI soldier, Gunner Hadlow.  As you can see from the inscription on the typical WWI headstone he died on 16th March 1918. So just less than 9 months before “the war to end all wars” ended. 

Notice too the two small poppies that currently adorn his grave. Later this week it will be 99 years to the day that poor Gunner Hadlow passed away but still someone in my community remembers his sacrifice. I’m remarkably touched by that small but significant gesture. 

Seems to me lately as a society we’re not doing the level of remembering we perhaps should do. 

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Presentations and Closures

It appears that the service I’ve had my placement at so far for my counselling course is a victim of the austerity clamour that the financial crisis somehow has imposed on local government.  I’ll not get into the nonsense of central government continually cutting local government budgets to prop up failing banks that simply add a few billion of loses to the exchequers overdraft ever few months.  Anyway – last week we were told the service is under review and the heavy hint is that means it’ll be closing in the short term.  Bugger!  I’ve just begun to feel confident there in my role now and settling into getting clients to stick with me and the service.  I’ll be a long way off my need 100 hours too.  So I need to start looking for a new placement soon.  I’m also angry and annoyed as many of the people I see can’t afford private counselling and also many wouldn’t go near counselling at all it is only as it is recommended by a keyworker who they have build trust with, in an environment they feel comfortable with and with a service they trust and isn’t seen as something completely separate.  Handing them a card with say a mental health charity on it and saying you can try them isn’t going to get many of them the opportunity they really need to engage with counselling for the first time.  Of all my clients only one had ever experienced counselling in another setting.  I think that speaks volumes.

On a brighter note we started our first case study presentations last week.  In order to not go into melt down and rewrite mine quickly in a week after seeing others I volunteered to be in the first cohort on the first week and… yippee – I passed!   So another minor step out of the way.

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Wealth – where is it?

Oxfam produce some interesting stats in their work.  Particularly about distribution of wealth.

It wasn’t too long ago I read them saying that 50% of the world’s wealth was owned by just enough people to fit on a London double decker bus (approx 70).  Now only a few years later that number has tumbled –  to 8!   If the trend continues in a few years it’ll be 1 or 2 people.   How have we come to a world of such great inquietude?

Couple this with that Oxfam also say that 1% of the world’s population has as much as they other 99%.  In fact I’m probably if not in that 1% I’m close to it – like many other middle aged people who’ve bought their own house and ferreted away some savings in Western Europe or North America.  I’m not rich in that I can’t consider buying multiple houses, yachts, supercars etc. but I am actually super rich compared with the vast majority of the world.  I have a house, car, savings, enough clothes for a month of daily changes and a fridge and freezer stuffed with food to feed my family for weeks.  That is riches beyond many people’s comprehension.  That’s before you consider welfare, healthcare and the freedoms I have to be who I want to be and say what I want to say.

And still I hear we have to make cuts in education spending, revise and radically change how we spend on healthcare etc.  In the UK councils are slashing social care budgets and many many services for the disadvantaged only run due to the army of volunteers that do stuff for free or virtually nothing – themselves potentially slipping into poverty as carers etc.  I watch programmes about carers under 10 having to care for a sick parent, cleaning and cooking when they should be playing and studying but we can’t afford to pay someone to take this responsibility away from them.  We give £10 to a charity so the kid gets an hour a week at a trampoline park. Really? And heaven forbid we open our borders to let in those that have no opportunity to any kind of life in countries ravaged with corruption, famine and war.

I offer no solution but I really don’t think the ruling class we have in positions of power at the moment make me think anything will change in this inexorable rise of wealth from the bottom to the top.  From Blair to Cameron, from Trump to May, from Farage to Osborne etc. they are all wealthy privileged people clearly who are very clearly in that 1% and they seem to want to help give more of the world to that rugby scrum of rich men at the top who have bank accounts that would make many calculators produce Err on the summation.

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Conference – inspiring and deflating

I went to a conference on Saturday.  It was the Bridging the gap student event put on by the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy).

So it was both really inspiring and deflating.  Not in equal measure I feel.

The deflation ….

Firstly the average salary of a counsellor in the UK?  £11,000.  That is deflating in terms of what it means about who will come and work in the industry.  I’m sorry but the majority of the attendees filled the UK stereotype of a counsellor.  White, middle aged, middle class, female.  One speaker pointed this out saying right at the start of their training they asked a tutor why that was so.  His response was “Because they have white, middle aged, middle class husbands that can pay for them to play at counselling”.  I don’t believe these people are playing at it at all I’m sure the vast majority are committed caring individuals but there’s some truism in the statement and that stereotype sadly.  However as someone who is definitely not one of those categories – I’m certainly a male and doesn’t associate with another despite all appearances – I’ll be working class till I die no matter what house I own, car I drive or career I follow (for me being working class is in my genes not in my bank balance) I may have some unique selling points to offer clients.

Now the inspiration…

Loads of it.  People talking about how they forged out a private practice using ingenious methods like swapping their spare room with someone else.  Genius!  Don’t want to counselling in your own home but can’t afford to rent somewhere?  Know someone with the same problem?  Do you both have a room you could convert to a counselling space?  Yes?  Then you use theirs they use yours and let your clients know it is only a business arrangement that you use that room.  Simple genius!

One thing really struck me was a talk which touched on do we as a counselling profession actually help with the oppression of the minority and the diverse?  By helping these folks integrate into society are we simply oppressing their individualism to ensure they look more like the rest of us?  Like… WOW man!  Got me thinking.  Also if you work for an organisation to counsel staff or other stakeholders are you simply propping up a failing institution by helping those people cope week to week rather than deal with the systemic issues within that organisation?  Say you took one day a week to counselling the staff of a company and every week every one of your clients moaned about the hours they have to work, that they are taking work home at the weekend and it was damaging their families lives etc?  And that they all broadly said “Talking to you is the only way I cope getting through the week”.  You look at the nice regular fixed income this company is providing and that you’ve promised complete confidentiality to your clients and that nothing will go back to the employer?   But really… what should you do?

Actually those two situations sound bleak but to me that was actually inspirational about the value of being a counsellor to those people, to society and to the institutions we may be employed by.  But it is an ethical dilemma labyrinth.

The big thing that really came out to me though was – be authentic, be who you are as a person as a counsellor, don’t just play the role as a counsellor.  If you are acting a part you truly aren’t underneath the client will smell a phony and soon depart and you’ll never reap the benefit of helping people with the exploration that is potentially available to them.  The inspiration far outweighed the deflation btw.

Okay now… where was I with that Case Study!

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Women in addiction

I read this story on the BBC website – a good news story about a house set up in Amy Winehouse’s memory by her family to help women in early stages of recovery.

I’m pleased that there is more focus on women in addiction.  Too often even now I have to correct the misconception that AA is full of old guys like me.  Many meetings I go to locally are at least equally split if not a majority of women at some.  I also think women do seek help younger than most men seem to – which is a good thing in itself.  Women do seem to generally say “I’m not well” easier than men seem to do so.  Recently I was somewhere where a statistic was put up that most AA members were men.  Nationally, in the UK, the last AA membership survey put the split as 40% women to 60% men.  As I say though where I live I don’t agree with that split it is much closer to 50:50 to my eyes.

There is another women’s only project near where I live too that I should praise the Naomi project at the Kenward Trust.

Hopefully the stigma or at least talking about women having alcohol addiction issues is being broken down.




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It was 25 years ago today

Sadly the additional syllable due to the five means it doesn’t scan into the opening line of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Referencing that song on 14th February has some irony …


25 years ago today (Valentine’s Day 1992) Mrs F, a very young Son-of-Furtheron (he was just 19 months old) and yours truly moved into the house we’ve called home ever since.  Daughter-of-Furtheron wasn’t even a speck on the horizon, she didn’t arrive until 3 and a half years later.  My memories of that day are some vivid and some blank.  I remember a discussion with the removal men about my (then much more limited) guitar collection and why I insisted on loading it all into one of our cars rather than have them transport it.  Him saying “we’re fully insured” wasn’t the reassurance I wanted or needed!  I remember that we had to wait to get the key and the folks leaving the house we’re now in seemed to lack urgency so it was all a bit of a dash to unload late afternoon and early evening.  It started raining as we unloaded.  I then remember after the removal guys had left I was sitting on a chair surveying the chaos around us as as my father-in-law returned with fish and chips for us all. We ate them out of the paper as there was no chance of finding plates and cutlery.   I then remember being in the garage moving boxes about as it was teaming with rain and the door had  a large gap at the bottom so I learnt quickly not to store anything too near the door … until some years later when we had that replaced and a better drain installed.  I’ve always joked this was the  Valentine’s gift to trump all others I’ve ever bought for my wife.  “Remember the year I gave you a house?”

Also today is the 14th of the month.  That date for a long while was always met with a lift in my heart and smile on my lips.  Another month sober.  I take my sobriety day as 14th May 2004.  As I was driving to a meeting last night I was thinking about the anniversary of our home that is today, realised it is the 14th and quickly totted up that I’m actually sober exactly 12 years 9 months today.   That raised my spirits and made me feel really warm inside.  Because unbeknownst to me sometime in the last few weeks I’ve past a significant milestone.  I’ve spent more time in my current home sober than I did as an active alcoholic.  For me there is something significant in that, it is like sobriety is slowly winning, slowly pushing back that demon so that a sober me is the more prominent in my history.  Like in a war as one side slowly takes more ground from the other to assert its dominance.

I drank seriously from about the age of 16 through to 41.  So that’s about 25 years.  It’s difficult to be exactly precise with faded memories etc.  However I’ve always stated I had a 25 year drinking career.  So one day at a time I’m slowly nearing my 13th sober birthday on 14th May this year.  That’ll be another big milestone for me as then I’ll have been sober more than half the time I was an active alcoholic.  I’ll be on the backslope of the mountain range if that makes sense in terms of distance from my last drink.  I hope to maintain the journey on the long and winding road (another Beatles’ reference hah!) and one day I hope to be able to report that I’ve been sober longer than I was a drinking alcoholic.  That’ll be the day!… oh Buddy Holly – oops – the Beatles must have covered that sometime surely.  (Just researched this after initially publishing this post.  Apparently claimed to be the first song the Quarrymen recorded in 1958… queue spooky music)

In the end it is just one day, this day, away from a drink that really matters and I know that. However the days do add together and they have some significance for me in my journey.

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Boiler fixing hero

I hope I’m not jinxing this but the boiler was fixed yesterday.  A quick recap…

17th Jan – it started pouring water out of the overflow pipe every time we used it.  There was an attempt to fix it.  Failed.
New expansion vessel fitted – that’ll fix it… didn’t
Continued to use it with the fault.
31st Jan – attempt to fit a new heat exchanger.  I can’t describe the disaster this was.  Boiler left in a state that it was simply unusable and disconnected.
3 Feb – another attempt to fix this – another failure
7 Feb – a hero turns up.  Removes what is left of the boiler off the wall – which frankly wasn’t much and begins to reassemble the boiler from scratch.  More water everywhere when a seal failed, then flooded electrics denied it working although I had hope then as we had heating for about 15 mins.  Finally after an epic build and fixing it was all fixed last evening.  It was still working this morning.  I pray I don’t get home to a flood and it broken again.

So… aside from that.  I’ve finished my written exams, awaiting results due in late March now.  Panic about case studies now.  Honestly studying when you are older isn’t the fun it seemed when I was younger – maybe I didn’t care so much.

In other news my tinnitus has been really bad again – triggered by a trip to the dentist, whether the noise or vibration on that side or simply that I was really tense throughout the whole procedure I don’t know.  I’ve got to have a wisdom tooth extracted on that side too and some more work elsewhere so frankly not looking forward to that too much.

On a grander scale I’m flabbergasted by almost every other news story at the moment.  Brexit, Executive Orders, Populist support for banning Muslims coming to Europe etc. I feel almost like I’ve been thrown into some dystopian novel.   I have to decide my level of comfort with involvement in these things.  I very publicly on one social media site signed a petition about the UK leaving the EU and stated my position.  I was somewhat surprised with the number of people who followed my link and signed as well.  It at least showed me I’m not alone in my distaste for this post-truth world. However I can’t change the world so I have to accept it and determine to work with it in some way even if I am against it.

Serenity at the moment is a word I comprehend but seldom seem to have as a comfy bedfellow.


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