“13th”, and the importance of listening to other voices when they speak…

I’ve had Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th on my to-watch list for a while now. But it was a film I needed to be in the right mind-state to watch. I’ve not been in the right headspace to actively view anything for a while, but as soon as I was this was my first choice. 

And here’s the thing that struck me.  

I knew every single fact this film presented. But I had never put them together in such a way to realise what it was that they were showing me. 

I shouldn’t have needed someone else to make me realise these things. 

But I did. 

I am white privilege. There’s no denying it. But I’m also like to believe that I’m educated, left-wing, and that I think critically about the world around me. I try and fight unconscious bias. I try to look beyond my own world and see the lives of others. 

But boy, oh boy does privilege get in the way of me seeing things. 

As I watched 13th, I realised I knew each fact that they presented. I know about slavery. I know about the civil rights movement. I know how life for people of colour is innately harder. I know about the ways right-wing politicians have weaponised race. I know x. I know y. I know z

I know all those things. 

I just don’t see them. 

I don’t feel them in the way they needed to be felt. 

I’ve never experienced them. 

If you’d ever asked me, I would have said I knew all about the problems people of colour have faced historically, and face now. I would never have claimed that I understood their experience –  or that I could – but I would have said that I knew what that experience was. 

DuVernay has shown me exactly how little I saw any of it. 

There is knowing, and there is seeing and understanding. 

I didn’t put it all together. I didn’t see the depth. Or the history. Or the exhaustion. Or the anger. Or the fear. 

I can look down at all those born into vast wealth, all those who went to private schools, all those who can trace their family lines back to ancient aristocracy, all those who got their high flying jobs through family connections, all those who have never even considered what it might feel like to worry about not being able to afford something they need, and say “I’m better than those people”.  

But I am just as much a product of white privilege as they are. My life isn’t theirs, but I’m still white. 

Just because I haven’t benefitted from the system as much as some, it doesn’t mean I haven’t benefited from it at all. It doesn’t mean I’ve ever questioned it. It doesn’t mean I haven’t made racist comments simply because I didn’t think about how offensive they were. Or, even worse, because I wasn’t educated enough to know they were offensive. Doesn’t mean I’ve ever called people out for making the same comments because they weren’t “that bad”, as if there’s a sliding scale of racism and as long as you don’t go too far it’s okay. 

I’m going to try and do better. I’m going to made an effort to actively look out more films and read books about the subject, to actively think about the media I’m consuming and the places I work. I’m going to try and stop allowing myself to not notice when all the people around me, in either my personal and professional lives, are white. 

The amount of whiteness in my life shouldn’t be normal. “It’s how I grew up” isn’t an excuse. 

Hopefully I can do better. I’ll get it wrong. Privilege is a hard thing to break through, if only for the fact that part of its very essence is to hide itself in the everyday. But I’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep listening. Hopefully people in my life will not let me fall back into old habits, and hopefully I won’t allow them to either. 

It’s no one’s job but my own to ensure I improve myself. I just ask that people don’t allow me to slip into bad habits, and in return I shall try to do the same. 

Polyamory Week 2020

I was browsing Instagram last month and came across the following post from the account of @polyamoro.us:


Polyamory week is February 9th-15th! Mark your calendars! In spirit of the new year, we thought to bring together the polyam community in a new way. Be sure to like, share, repost, and tag to spread the word (We didn’t add our watermark because this info is meant to be shared)! The hashtag will be #polyamoryweek 

Now, so far in my journey I’ve not made a big thing about my polyamory. When Frankie and I decided to go down this path, we decided we were going to keep this personal. It was new to us. We were seeing where things went. And then, as things grew, we decided it wasn’t something we wanted to make a big thing out of.

We weren’t ashamed. We just weren’t the sort to make a big statement about it. This was always about us. Not about what other people thought about us. If people asked, we would happily explain it. But other than family and very close friends we weren’t going to go out of our way to announce this was something we were doing.

But when I saw this post I thought, “Why not?” It seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about our new lifestyle and how it’s impacted us. I’m proud of my life, the choices I’ve made, and the people that those choices have led me to. I will never be a polyamory-evangelist, but I love the idea of spreading awareness of the lifestyle.

I also hope it might answer a few questions some of you might have about our personal journey that for whatever reasons you didn’t feel comfortable asking us directly.

So, through Polyamory Week – today to next Saturday – I will be posting about my experience with polyamory; the community, the lifestyle, my own personal experiences, and some wider thoughts on relationships and love in general.

Hopefully you’ll find it interesting. If you have any questions feel free to send them my way. I’m always happy to talk about all these things. I’m planning on summarising these posts, and any questions I get, and putting up a section on my website for the future.

A little disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert. I can only talk about my own experiences. I’m sure there are people to whom polyamory and non-monogamy mean something else. And those who’ve been doing this for far longer who have a much deeper understanding of all of this. Their lives are their own, and I will happily engage with those who see things differently.

Recommendation: “A World in Us” by Louisa Leontiades

The most relevant note from my read of this book is that it’s the first one I can remember since school where I’ve actually highlighted sections to refer back to later.

A World in Us is a memoir of two parts. The first is the actual story, depicting how the author and her husband came into polyamory and the soaring highs and crashing lows of their first relationship with another couple. The second is a commentary of sorts written several years later as a letter to the Leontiades’ younger self, going through each chapter in turn and commenting on what she has learned.

On the first level, this is simply a wonderfully written story about someone’s personal journey. What they went through to find who they were. These are four people discovering a new side to themselves, being willing to do something that doesn’t “fit” with societal norms because it’s what feels right for them, and learning things that a traditional, monogamous relationship would have never revealed. It’s honest, emotional, and at times brutal, but also beautiful and affirming.

The second level is as a guide for people newly exploring polyamory. Leontiades never shies away from the light or the dark of her experiences. There a moments both exciting and thrilling, and moments where she’s is emotionally crushed beneath the weight of everything. We are show the pure joy of discovering something that you didn’t know was missing in your life, but also the pain of trying to find your way in a lifestyle your upbringing never prepared you for.

The beauty of this story is its honesty. At no point does the Leontiades try to hide her own faults or issues and how they fed into the dynamic the four of them created. There are times that the others come off as the “bad guys” in situations, this is only because Louisa is our protagonist and so naturally the depictions of the other three are seen through her point of view. And this is effectively address by the author herself in the second half, where she reflects on the events of each chapter with the benefit of time, growth and reflection.

And this isn’t a piece of polyamory propaganda. We are simply presented with Louisa’s story, and are free to take away from it what we want. At no point does she argue polyamory is better or worse than monogamy. Only that both are valid options with their own benefits and pitfalls.

But through her honest depiction of her own experience, with all it’s failings and unaddressed issues, we are presented with the fact that this isn’t a gateway to a perfect life. It will be hard, and it my not be what we were expecting. But, if it fits your personality and you work on it, it can be a rewarding why to life your life.

Overall, if you are newly coming into polyamory I couldn’t recommend this book enough. Even if, like me, Leontiades’ situation doesn’t mirror your own there are so many universal learnings to take away from it.

Election Sharing: Dos and Don’ts

681734-01So, it’s time to face another election. And you know what that means? The Social Media Armchair Electioneering has begun!

And as much as it amuses me that the acronym for this is SMAE – making those who do it SMAErs – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Engagement in politics is vital, especially during an election. However, we all know how annoying it can get. Especially on social media. So, with that in mind, I implore you to pay heed to the points below and try not to contribute to the traditional flooding of pointless and/or damaging articles on social media.

DO: Read before you post;

Seriously. Read the article. The whole damn thing, not just the title. I’ve already seen one person share an article that meant exactly the opposite of what he believes because he didn’t realise the title was clickbait-y “sarcasm”. And then check the sources. Despite evidence to the contrary, Fake News is incredibly easy to spot if you use a modicum of critical thinking. Be sure you know what you’re posting. Otherwise, you’re just that irritating person spamming junk all over people’s Feeds. And no one likes that guy.

DON’T: Post anything that isn’t new;

If you’ve posted an opinion once, we don’t need to see it again. Let’s face it, in all likelihood your friends know your political leanings already, so if all you’re doing is hammering home that you agree with one side or the other you’re not contributing to the discussion. If you read something new – a piece of information or an interpretation of a point of view you’ve not seen before – then go ahead and share. But if you simply post the same thing over and over people will stop bothering to read because you’re making your opinions repetitive and uninteresting. Then when you do have something interesting to say, no one’s listening.

DO: Read posts from people you disagree with;

The internet is an echo chamber. You will almost certainly be connected to people who, more or less, share your opinions. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to understand why anyone would ever vote differently to you; because you haven’t taken the time to engage with their thinking. And I’m talking about more than simply reading newspaper headlines as you pass them in the supermarket. Find a reputable website, newspaper, or magazine and give it a read. If you want progressive discourse you need to know why people don’t share your beliefs because that’s the only way you’ll learn how to change their minds.

DON’T: Get angry at dissent;

People will disagree with you. Get used to it and stop overreacting. I know it’s frustrating that the other side just can’t see how wrong they are, or how much better the world would be if they just learned to agree with you on everything but telling them how stupid they are for not doing so won’t help. Yes, if you want to make a difference in the world you need passion, but passion doesn’t necessarily mean anger. Yelling for no reason simply makes the divide bigger. And if every political post becomes little more than people yelling at each other about how stupid their opinions are people aren’t going to bother reading them.

DO: Change your mind;

Changing your opinion isn’t weakness, it’s growth. When we learn something new, we need to change our ideas to reflect this. We can’t be afraid to admit when hard evidence proves us wrong. Never dismiss facts out of hand just because they don’t match your current beliefs. If you ever want to believe you can change someone else’s mind then you need to be prepared for it to happen to you as well. Admitting you were wrong about something isn’t going to change how you vote. Or maybe it will. Who knows? Don’t blindly insist you’re right and everyone who disagrees is wrong. And if it happens the other way around, don’t be a dick about it.


We all both have a duty to engage with politics, to investigate and then promote our political ideas and beliefs, especially around election time. But we also have a right to ignore it all completely as well. And, at least in my opinion, what the Left and Right both need to do is learn to engage with the disinterested. So many people don’t care about politics, either through apathy, disinterest, or pointless rebellion against “authority”. This is the silent majority. These are the ones we need to persuade.

A third of all people don’t bother to vote, because they’ve become disengaged with politics. If you want to get these people voting, and more importantly for your side, then you need to think about how you’re engaging them. Take a moment. Is that post you’re about to Share going to help your cause as much as you think it will?

Don’t be that person who puts people off politics.


These people actually exist

Wow. Just… wow.

You know when you read something and you simply can’t grasp what caused somebody to actually make it public? That it has to be a joke. Or someone trying out old cliched self-help concept of writing an angry letter telling someone how you really feel, but then destroying it rather than sending it.

Well, it seems one guy hit “send” rather than “trash”.

Seriously, if you’re an aspiring writing who – like me – is putting yourself through the sometimes ego crushing process of trying to find an agent, please click the link for an example of exactly who you don’t want to be. (The link goes to a different blog who has screenshotted the original post, as I don’t want to the give the original poster the blog hits.)

I know all of us fear that one day we might have to face the fact that our writing just wasn’t good enough, but don’t take it out on the agent. And don’t – I’m amazed I even have to say this – don’t rant about said agent on the internet.

Seriously, it’s a relatively small industry. This man will never – ever – get an agent after this.


To sleep, perchance to waste my time…

The whole “sleeping” nonsense is nothing but a pain.

Life is unavoidably divided between the things that we want to do and the things that we need to do. And as much as – if I were granted total freedom of definition – I would count writing as a need, I have to accept that it cannot as yet be categorised with such things as buying and preparing food, ensuring money is earned and bills are paid, keeping my home clean and maintained, attending to my physical and mental wellbeing, etc., etc. Only once these responsibilities are acquitted – or at least once I’ve planned for them to be acquitted at a later date – can I dedicate my time to what I want to do.

But I only have a certain amount of energy per day. I can’t write if I’m exhausted. On a normal day, I get very little time to get writing done. I can basically count on about 45 minutes on a weekday and maybe 30 or so each evening, but that is only as long as the day-job isn’t particularly stressful and I’m left with no spare energy and I don’t have some other tasks that need priority. Weekends can vary, but again they will often be taken up with other tasks that need doing.

So until I reach that point where I earn enough from my writing that it takes over from my day-job and so moves from a want to a need, I have to accept that I exist in a world where I have stuff to get done, and not enough time in the day to do it because I am burdened with the frustrating need to sleep.

But I would have time if I wasn’t burdened with this frustrating need to sleep.

Did you know that no one knows so certain even why we need sleep? There are various theories, but no one can give a definitive answer. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes sleep – or at least curling up in bed – can be amazing. But I would like the choice!

Wouldn’t it be great if we had that choice? To simply decide that tonight I won’t sleep, as I have stuff to get done. If sleep was simply a way to pass the time when there was nothing else to get done? To live in a world where the day could be given over to responsibilities, and the night left free for us to get on with enjoying ourselves or working on personal projects?

Can science get on this, please? I’d be really grateful.



The Pig Demon of Dublin

I was going through my photos from our recent trip to Dublin, and I came across this little gem. I had completely forgotten that while exploring the city we had looked up to discover this chap staring down at us from the window above a local butcher.
Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 14.11.29
Now the question is this: is he watching and making a note of all those who have purchased the meat of his kin, or is he actually farming his own kind to make a profit from the sale of their flesh?
Is he the perpetrator, or the avenger?

One year on

Exactly one year ago today I went through possibly the most emotional day of my life. I had to watch as my wife and sister were wheeled, one after the other, into an operating theatre at Hammersmith Hospital, so my sister could give my wife one of her kidneys.

The night beforeFrankie had gone in the night before. We left her in a bed next to a women who had been speaking on the phone for about two hours when we left, and apparently continued until another two hours until Frankie had to ask her to stop so she could get some sleep. And then she went outside rather than hang up. Whatever that phone call was, it was clearly important.

My family and I were staying at my in-laws. We sat up watching old cartoons from the 1940s on YouTube. 

And then in the morning we all headed over the hospital. Emily got prepped and then taken off to the theatre, while I waited with Frankie. At nine o’clock they came to prep her, and we left them to it. We made out way to the High Dependancy Ward, where they would both be brought once they were done, and settled in to wait.

Freshly harvested

At two in the afternoon Emily was brought in, awake enough to state for the record that she felt like she’d been hit by a bus. A little while later it had reduced to a car. Later still, a bike. I am told that at times like this, drugs are your best friends.

The surgeon came up around four to tell us everything had gone fine, and Frankie was in recovery. Well, fine apart from her having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they gave her just before surgery, which literally could have ruined the whole thing if it had been worse. But it had died down, the operation had gone perfectly, and she finally came up to us at six thirty.

It’s a hard thing trying to describe how it feels seeing the person you love being brought in after a major operation. Small, helpless, only half aware of their surroundings and clearing in a lot of pain. About a dozen different tubes snaking out of her arm, hand and throat. Yet you’re also aware than everything is technically better than it (a) was, or (b) could have been. We had already been told it had been a textbook operation, and the kidney started working straight away. Almost too well, in fact. They had two bags of saline literally pouring into her, with the kidney producing two litres of urine an hour. Fast enough, in fact, that it flushed all the glucose out of her system and gave her temporary diabetes.


I can’t describe how useless I felt. As her stomach started waking up she started retching, which forced her to have to sit up and strain the massive, fresh wound in her side. And then, when I stood too quickly to grab a bowl to try and help her, all the blood drained from my head and I nearly passed out myself.


It’s been a year now, but this experience is not something you forget. Emily remained in the hospital for a few days before getting released. Frankie stayed a few more, of course. Once she did get out she had to go back in almost daily for check ups. Then weekly. Now monthly. It’s not all been plain sailing, of course. She’d had to deal with BK viral nephropathy, and the two day migraines that followed the treatment for that. Then we learned that she cannot just “power through” a mild discomfort anymore, as that can leads to a three day hospital stay with a bladder infection.

But this has been a part of our lives for far longer than a year. Off the top of my head it’s involved: 3 kidney biopsies; 12 months of testing to determine the level of her kidney damage; 24 hour urine tests for 6 potential donors; MRI, ultrasound and X-Ray examinations on two of those donors (including a follow up MRI and ultrasounds for one of those to check a potential, non-related issue); pre-op appointments; a frickin’ Kidney Transplant; approximately a month of overnight hospital stays altogether, a week of which were in the high dependancy ward; follow up appointments, emergency clinic visits, and enough blood vials taken to keep Dracula satisfied for a year.

And how much were we charged for all this? What was the total on the bill were given at the end? Nothing.

How much did we need to sacrifice in order to go through this necessary operation? Nothing.

How many times did our doctors outline the different levels of service we could get, pushing us towards something that wasn’t what we needed but would earn the hospital the maximum profit? Never.

When have we ever gone into a hospital, whatever day of the week or weekend, to find there were no doctors or nurses working their hardest to help us? Never.

It’s not hyperbole that the NHS is one of the greatest organisations in the world. It is, and has been, a literal lifesaver for countless people. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, there are quite possibly more efficient ways parts of it could be run, but anyone who honestly believes it should be replaced with any other programme is either a terminal idiot or unbelievably selfish. Or likely both.

We are currently stuck with a government determined to use the NHS to score political points. Rather than quietly working with doctors to improve the service, they are at best fighting to make arbitrary changes for idealogical reasons, and at worse seeking nothing more than to forward their own financial interests. And as people fight back, the current Health Secretary does little more than go to the media to wildly blame doctors, using every political trick in the book to try and con people into blaming the people who actually know how the NHS works.

Doctors and nurses are life savers. They do a harder and more important job than I will ever do. And they are also far more over worked and – in many cases – underpaid. I’m not going to say that over the last few years Frankie and I never had to deal with grumpy, unfriendly nurses. Or terse doctors with almost no bedside manor. Because they’re people, just like us. Everyone had bad days at work. Busy people aren’t always the friendliest. And the people they are working to help are not in the best mood themselves. That’s life.

It boils down to the fact that doctors and nurses do are the point of the NHS. Everything else is just a structure to allow them to do it in the most efficient way. And two of the things that makes it efficient is making it free at point of service, and making the people at the point of service happy, awake, and willing to make the necessary sacrifices their job requires.

Don’t let the government fool you into mistaking how important the NHS is, or hide how little they know how to handle it. Or how badly they are handling it. Like any organisation, the NHS needs to continuously develop and grow. Today’s NHS isn’t the same and it was fifty years ago, and it will be different again in another fifty. I’m not going to pretend I know what the next steps for it our, but I’m not in government. The Tories don’t have a plan either, and they are.

But they are politicians, and so believe that have to be doing something. And without any idea or plan they have fallen back on tired, political ideology instead. And once they’ve claimed that they believe something – no matter how vapid or damaging it is demonstrated to be – they can’t go back on it for fear of being branded with the dreaded “U-Turn”. Rather than admit they might have been wrong, they try to force people into believing that their failures in policy, planning, and ability are actually the NHS’s own fault for not agreeing with them.

So let’s ignore the political hyperbole, or the media grandstanding. The NHS doesn’t need saving. It needs running, and it needs to be run by people who know what they’re doing.

And when you need it, you’re going to be so glad the doctors fought back.

Last, best hope…

As I arrive in the coffee shop I look around. It’s fairly empty today. I prefer it like that. I’m not someone who needs absolutely silence to work, but it’s always better when I don’t have to actively ignore a large amount of ambient noise. I suppose I could invest in a decent set of noise cancelling headphones, but that’s fairly low priority on my list of things to spend money on.

I order my coffee. My favourite table is free, the perfect spot for an hour’s writing. I walk over and settle. Everything is nice and peaceful.

Then a group of about 20 elderly women, all apparently slightly deaf and needing to speak just that little bit louder than everyone else around them, arrives and settle into the table next to mine.

For fuck’s sake.