A Return To Normality: The Golden Fleece, Nottingham

The day came – 12th April 2021 and a return to hospitality opening – albeit al fresco. It was eagerly awaited. After two nights out I’m now in need of another lockdown!

A few observations about getting out again for those with the interest and patience to read.

Monday evening was on a large outdoor covered and heated terrace. There were around 100-120 drinkers (no food) on tables of six. Waiter service, pay electronically. There was music from a DJ and deck which rang through the surrounding streets.

May be an image of 5 people and outerwear
Image: The Golden Fleece, Nottingham, Facebook. (Pic taken October 2020)

Customers were probably about 95%+ students from the nearby university which made it something of an outlier where considering general behaviours are concerned. One young lad on the next table who was having a famous time on his coincidental birthday, we considered was the spitting image of 1970s Notts County stalwart right-back, Bill Brindley. (Bill knew his way around a pint too). At one point Billy 2021 version threw up twice into a bucket and amost tipped most of the drinks off the table while doing it.

It was loud, raucous with several celebrations going on, characterised by hugging, handshaking kissing, whilst moving between tables. Non of this bothered my crew who like me, were grateful to get out and see each other and socialise again. I’m commenting here, not criticising. We were all young once and i’m pretty sure I’d have been acting similarly at that age.

To summarise, well, I’m somewhat relieved that I had the relative protection of a Pfizer jag. I can’t make a case for any of this stuff being ‘safe’. This wasn’t the business’s fault who had done a sterling job of laying on a good, safe situation if it was used as such. The problem is alcohol and the effects of it isn’t it, and that was starkly shown all through the protracted time I was there. To say that it promotes some risk-taking behaviour is not a revolutionary statement.

Probably more interesting (to me at least) was the really nice chat I had with a group of lovely, friendlyfourth year design students during the latter part of the evening. Excusing themselves, they said they had wondered what kind of job I do and I guess were betting between themselves on the outcome. The reply ‘I’m a Psychologist’ brought about a stunned silence (believe me, some people incorrectly imagine you’re immediately about to carry out a psychoanalysis on them when you say that). When their mouths eventually closed we had a great chat and a main theme, sadly, was how they felt shunned by the local community, that nobody wanted anything to do with them since adverse reports about some students over the past year. They were actually really grateful to be acknowledged and engaged and thanked me over and over for this. What on earth have we come to?

The group said they all loved living in Nottingham and mentioned the true minority percentage of people misbehaving in the local parks, that press photographers were following people around, taking shots from various angles to enhance what appeared to be a complete lack of social distancing and prevalence of drinking alcohol which is forbidden in Nottingham’s open spaces.

I’m left a little sad about all this. I have worked in both Nottingham universities,studied at one of them and my ex remains a lecturer at one of them. I’ve friends in them and even work adjacent one of them. It’s easy and natural for me to feel connected to them, unlike some others, who fill the local ****-stirring rag with hateful, anti-student comments. I wonder where we are all going with this.

As for the two nights in general, there was generally a much more celebratory and gung-ho attitude noticable among people on both nights out including a second one which was much more staid by comparison. I can only think it is the psychological effect of being partly immunised for many. I have no idea if all this described will rebound on us and I’ve just decided to have gratitude for it while I can.

A genuine ‘thank you’, The Golden Fleece, Nottingham.

That First Night Out

Cat, waiting in the hallway after me returning home late after a first evening out for several months:

Cat: Where you think YOU’VE been young man?

Me: Aw, did you miss me?

Cat: Got any grub?

(Gives cat large bowl of Whiskas)

Cat: chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp…

Me: Was that nice then?

Cat: Meow…got anything else?

Me: How about some tuna? (serves fishy treat)

Cat: chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp…

Me: How was that?

:Cat: Bye

Back To Freedom

Well, the first day of ‘freedom’ tomorrow at last and I can say that despite the cool weather forecast (a low of 3C) I’m so looking forward to seeing friends again after six very long months.

May be an image of flower and nature
(Image: Ixigo)

For me, life has been pretty much about being in the house day and night, working, sleeping, eating, the usual stuff. For that reason, it will feel novel just to do the simple things, catch a bus into the city, have a pint or two, catch up with friends. I feel a lot of gratitude for it. It’s probably the most inspiring time in over a year, along with a first dose of Pfizer some weeks back.

t’s been a very lonely existence, in spite of counselling clients on the phone each working day and calls with friends, not really me at all as I’m the sociable type end very much enjoy being amongst people.

Some sanity has been preserved due to my little pal, the beautiful stray tabby cat, Gigi, who adopted me two years ago. Every evening he sits close to me, listening to music and the radio, watching the TV (he loves watching Hibs!) Each night he comes and sleeps on the bed next to me, keeping me company. Every day he makes me laugh. How can you possibly be lonely with such a great pal and companion?

It’s a booking for six on a rooftop terrace at a Nottingham city centre pub from 7pm tomorrow.

Hoping you all get the same opportunity to do something you enjoy too, the very first moment it’s possible.

May We Have A Little Freedom Now?

‘Warned’ not to go into my own local city centre by the police? I’ve done things by the book for thirteen months now and I’ll now do what the heck I like regarding entering the city thanks.

As it happens, I have an outdoor table booked with friends for the coming Monday evening and will be complying fully by sitting outside in predicted 3C temperatures (my choice) in order to have the pleasure of seeing friends I haven’t seen in six months. After staying home day after day, as has been requested for most of a year of my life, I resent being told to stay away from the city if I cannot book a table, basically in case the police have to do a little policing, other than chasing a few students out of their house parties. I’m being facetious but you get the point

What this command fails to recognise is that numerous pubs and bars are accepting walk-in customers alongside booked tables in order to maximise often meagre outside capacity from Monday 12th. Some are ONLY accepting walk-ins and no bookings. One or the other was the case at practically every venue I personally checked. How would the police propose that these (mostly struggling) businesses manage to trade with no people allowed into the city without bookings?

The police are overstepping the mark here. Perhaps they overestimate their powers too with the new authoritarian society opportunistically ushered in by this idealogically woeful and anti-working class government. The public are tired, exhausted indeed, damaged both mentally and physically.

People are depressed and anxious, needing some relief from iincessant bad new over the past year. I hear this message loud and clear in my own work, sometimes feel it too. Many are now impovererished also due to the very necessary lockdowns. Please now give us a small break and allow us to walk around our own streets in peace.

Canon Edward Joseph Hannan

An image of the plaque commemorating Cannon Hannen which resides inside the front doors of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the Cowgate In Edinburgh. Snapped on one of many visits. Canon Edward Joseph Hannan was born Ballingarry, County Limerick, Ireland on 21 June 1836. The founding father of Hibernian Fooball Club, Leith, Edinburgh. Formed …

Leapool, Redhill, Nottingham

The Leapool area of Redhill, Nottingham, showing Mansfield Road, in two images from the 1960s. Credit to Rachel Hawker, a member of the Hawker family who owned . W. Hawker & Son garage at Leapool. One picture shows Rachel’s aunt waving from the forecourt of the garage with a backdrop of Mansfield Road leading south …

Redhill, Nottingham

Iiving in Redhill, Nottingham for a great deal of my life has provided a keen local historical interest in the area. It struck me that whilst writing about it variously, those words have never been collated in one place. This new Tears of a Clown category is to serve that purpose and to document Redhill …

Coronavirus and Suicide

It’s interesting to see how many experts there are in mental health these days as well as epidemiologists and virologists… I really don’t enjoy when people use the likes of suicide rates to support their arguments and agendas. It’s not all about dry data but rather about real lives lost and real families suffering that …

As it happens, I have an outdoor table booked with friends for the coming Monday evening re-opening of hospitality in England and will be complying fully by sitting outside in predicted 3C temperatures (my choice) in order to have the pleasure of seeing friends I haven’t seen in six months. After staying home day after day, as has been requested for most of a year of my life, I resent being told to stay away from the city if I cannot book a table, basically in case the police have to do a little policing, other than chasing a few students out of their house parties. I’m being facetious but you get the point.

What this command fails to recognise is that numerous pubs and bars are accepting walk-in customers alongside booked tables in order to maximise often meagre outside capacity from Monday 12th. Some are ONLY accepting walk-ins and no bookings. One or the other was the case at practically every venue I personally checked. How would the police propose that these (mostly struggling) businesses manage to trade with no people allowed into the city without bookings?

The police are overstepping the mark here. Perhaps they overestimate their powers too with the new authoritarian society opportunistically ushered in by this idealogically woeful and anti-working class government.

The public are tired, exhausted indeed, damaged both mentally and physically. People are depressed and anxious, needing some relief from iincessant bad new over the past year. I hear this message loud and clear in my own work every single day, sometimes I feel it too. Many are now impovererished also due to the very necessary lockdowns. Please now give us a small break, allow us to walk around our own streets and have something to eat or drink with our friends in peace.

A Generation of Racists? I Don’t Think So

I’m sorry, but this current trend of maligning a whole generation by suggesting ‘everyone’ used racist terms and displayed racist behavour in order to excuse the late Prince Philip’s racism and generally abject behaviour throughout his life as a matter of course is not acceptable.

The word racism spelled out on cube blocks
(Image: Harvard Health Publishing)

My father was born in 1921, the very same year as the late consort and would NEVER use those offensive terms or act in that way. That was a general family condition too and for many, many others. We aneed not all be judged by our supposed ‘betters’ whose behaviour remains consistently questionable, to put it mildly.

The fact that my father, although also born in 1921, was lost to our family fully thirty-seven years prior to his hugely priviliged contemporary meeting his maker is not lost on me either.

Mind you, my father worked hard for a living from 14 years-old and didn’t rely on handouts from servile sycophants.

Arrivederci Piers Morgan

Thank god for that. If he hasn’t been, he really needed sacking after his tirade about Meghan Markle on GMB. This was a step too far. As far as I am concerned, the challenging and disbelief of any person’s suicide ideation is dangerous and totally out of order. I speak as a person with a late partner who after being discharged deemed as not requiring support by a mental health crisis team, went out and took her own life in a most violent way less than twenty-four hours later.

Piers Morgan leaves ITV’s Good Morning Britain after row over Meghan remarks

Morgan’s interviewing of politicians has won him points in various circles throughout the pandemic, let the point be remembered though that the Tory politicians he has been showing his faux disgrace are the same ones he actually supports and votes for. There remains for me a doubt over the sincerity and purpose of his numerous rants. The man long has form for being a despicable human being and has never essentially changed.

As for Good Morning Britain, I’m not particularly a fan of the programme but each snippet I’ve set eyes upon resembles a pantomime with Morgan’s shouty ‘performances’, talking over everybody, including his co-presenters being a complete embarrassment. If the TV company grew better judgement they could do a lot worse than promoting the excellent Alex Beresford to a more prominent role.

Gregory Isaacs – Extra Classic

Gregory Isaacs passed on over ten years ago and left us with a legacy of beautiful, timeless music. A fine example of this was the sweet and mellow ‘Extra Classic’, a track who no less than Rolling Stone, Keith Richards declared in his top ten of all time.

Gregory Isaacs – Extra Classic

Described once by a prominent New York journalist as ‘the most exquisite vocalist in reggae’ and being credited with the origination of ‘Lovers Rock’, the man who came to fondly be known as ‘The Cool Ruler’ began his career as Winston Sinclair and recorded under the production of legendary Jamaican musician, Byron Lee.

By the late 1970s, peaking in fame, possibly only Dennis Brown and Bob Marley could challenge his popularity as he regularly toured the US and the UK. Gregory opened his Cash and Carry shop and label at number 125 on the famous Orange Street, Jamaica, next door to another Jamaican music legend, Cecil Bustamante Campbell – better known as Prince Buster.

Charitable work was always close to Gregory Isaacs’ soul and his widow, June Wyndham, set up The Gregory Isaacs Foundation to carry on her husband’s charitable legacy. After living the last three years of his life in Harrow Weald, his remains were interred in Dovecot Cemetery, Jamaica.

A Pfizer Vaccine

I had my first vaccination dose today at Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre as a health and social care worker. Extremely well organised by cheery and excellent staff from beginning to end. It was the Pfizer version.

May be an image of text that says "I'VE HAD MY COVID VACCINA VACCINATIO"

Ushered in, given a surgical mask to replace my own face covering.

Joined a ten-minute socially-distanced queue obeying a marked out floor.

First desk took my NHS number and evidence of status.

Second desk, a health professional asked a few rudimentary health questions.

Directed straight in for the jag. Very quick and painless.

Next desk to make second appointment in 12 weeks.Asked to sit in a waiting area for five minutes and time myself before letting myself out.

Arrived home and no reaction at all (as yet) after six hours.

I’ve not been out of the house nor spoken to anyone much face to face in a good while due to working from home and I was beginning to feel slightly threadbare. Therefore, it felt inspiring and galvanising, stepping out in the world a little once more and seeing the faces and the positive, cheerful and indomitable attitude of the NHS staff in the vaccination unit.

I thanked each one profusely. You are all greatly appreciated. Thank you so much

Snowy Hucknall, Nottinghamshire

My mother’s home town, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, pictured 24th January 2021, blessed and adorned with a delicate sprinkling of snow.

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature
(Image: Paul Atherley)

A proudly down-to-earth former mining town which boasted two pits and Rolls-Royce as major employers. Hucknall lies approximately seven miles north north-west of Nottingham and was the kind of unsung town that kept the country’s lights burning through the hard graft of its people.

Hucknall Aerodrome, which used to host a memorable was an RAF base which featured in WW11 and hosted the legendary story of Luftwaffe pilot Franz von Werra ‘The One That Got Away’. In later years the aerodrome was a test establishment for the first vertical take-off aircraft, ‘The Flying Bedstead’.

The town has much expanded over more recent years due partly to it’s rail and tram links and near proximity to the M1 Motorway. The conurbation is surrounded by pretty countryside and cheek-by-jowell with the attractive small villages of Linby and Papplewick, both of which have an illustrious yet sometimes harsh history due to their former industrial histories which saw many children put to work there in the mills. History that lessons were learnt from.

The picture shows St Mary Magdalene Parish Church which was my mother’s family church, looking over the town’s market place. Inside, interred in the family vault, the great and world famous romantic poet, Lord George Gordon Byron’s body is laid to rest. The town was greatly loved by my mother and Lord Byron revered.

A humble yet special little town.

Banana Republic – Sceptic Isle

We live in a country where you can break your foot and be left to lie helpless and shivering, on a cold pavement for six hours then die there before an ambulance can attend you.

(Image: ITC.com)

One where 700 people have dialled 999 for emergency assistance and there are no ambulances available to help them.

There is a pandemic, we understand the pressures of that, we also understand it’s in a global form and yet similar reports from other countries are not prevalent.

Don’t be palmed off with this as an excuse for this serious risk placed on your lives. This government does not have the mental capacity nor the political ability to govern in such frightening and fearful times. They too, have a distinct lack of will or caring about the population’s welfare and well-being, as we are so starkly seeing.

I think ’21 is Going To Be A Good Year

IN 1921 our planet had just lived through World War One (1914-1918) with a resultant more than twenty million lives being lost. The worldwide Spanish Flu (1918-1920) had also had seen a further fifty million people perish.

The Who – ‘1921’

The great relief felt around the world led to what came to be called ‘The Roaring Twenties’ a decade of great economic growth and widespread prosperity, driven by recovery from the devastation of war, deferred spending and a construction industry boom. In addition, there was rapid growth of consumer goods in Europe, North America and other developed countries.

As people now turn their thoughts to 2021, we may indeed consider some of Townshend’s lyrics, written for his 1969 rock opus ‘Tommy’ as highly relevant today.

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year, Grace Marian and John

Happy New Year, Grace Marian and John.

Thinking of you at Hogmanay and every day, mum and dad. It feels like forever since we hugged and kissed at New Year. One day we will be together again.

Whatever I am, you made me and gave me the determination and strength to carry on when life was ebbing. Thank you. Love you.

Stuart

Shopping In Safety

I’ve been reading of a few peoples’ negative experiences of shopping in supermarkets and am genuinely curious to understand why some people who feel the need to persist with it, given the dangers from poor behaviour in those environments.

(Image: Aleš Čerin)

The current time, I feel, is very reminiscent of how things felt back in late March and April, quite threatening. At that time I decided to move online for my food shopping. This was prompted by a couple of necessary Sainsbury’s visits that felt distinctly uncomfortable. It wasn’t the queueing to get in, it was the ridiculous behaviour of people in the store – remember this too was pre-masking wearing for most people.

Even then, when it felt a little scary and unpredictable, people were pushing past and reaching over each other and hardly anyone was observing social distancing. it was like a group social at times with assemblies of people stopping for a chat and blocking aisles, people were visiting in family groups, handling goods and putting them back. Queues for the checkout were a joke, also with no soial distancing.

I felt very insecure and actually couldn’t wait to get home.

Since that time, I haven’t needed to go to any supermarket and it’s been online all the way for nine months now. At times it hasn’t been easy to find a delivery slot, especially in the early days and pre-Christmas but I set to understanding how best to do it.

Warehouses are being opened by supermarkets now which are not open to the public and specifically for pickers to prepare your order. That’s also potentially a few less pairs of mitts on your groceries.

For those who have concerns as i do, i would urge you to give it a shot. I will not be going back to going in supermarkets any time soon, or at all.

A few pointers from my own experiences:

Open accounts in all the supermarkets accessible to you

Log on each day and spend a few minutes locating a slot

Be prepared to have a delivery at an unsociable hour, these are cheaper or free and more readily available

Think ahead and have two or three deliveries on the go at a time, update the contents/delivery date as you get nearer the time

The last slot of the day (22.00-23.00) is sometimes free will often come much earlier if you’re home when they call.

It gets easier and quicker, Favourites folders will show all the regular things you tend to buy.

You can see exactly how much you’re spending

You can quickly see what the current offers are.

If you agree to sustitutions and they’re more expensive supermarkets will give you a refund. If you don’t want the replacements simply hand them back to the delivery person.

December 2020: Out Of Control

We’re now at unprecedented levels of infection in England and awaiting possibly similar results from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Increased hospital admissions leave healthcare in a very vulnerable position.

Compliance is arguably as poor as it’s been and worsening. Too many are shunning personal responsibility.

The government is consistently reactive and behind the curve, in spite of their protestations to the contrary. There appears no real plan. There is however constant confusion.

I feel that a complete lockdown in all four home countries is what is required. I believe that Sage are now recommending children don’t go back to school and agree with that. Nor should students going back on campus happen. In practice, a real lockdown where people can at least make plans on how to cope. Of course, this has to be supported financially to avoid the public and business suffering further.

Vaccinations are progressing now and when completed vaccinations are at a favourable level, lockdown restrictions should only then change. These are the first stages of an endgame. We have been chasing after this virus throughout, not doing enough, swiftly enough. There has been one false start after another which has especially, hugely impacted on businesses with wasted stock, and investment in safety procedures for little recompense.

People are absolutely sick and tired of regulations changing seemingly every few days. Many have given up even trying to understand them. Many more fail to take them seriously.

What was actually required at the beginning of this emergency was co-operation by way of a political coalition. Party politics have been an obstacle.

There is still time to pull this situation around, we have blue sky visible in the distance. We need a real plan and that should encapsulate restrictions to get us through to when vaccinations tip the balance. It is going to take courage and selflessness from politicians and the public. Firm discipline too, enforced if necessary.

Appreciate there might be few that agree with these ideas but that would be my current assessment.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding Through The Glen

A little like Dennis ‘Terry McCann’ Waterman, I do love a good theme toon. So much in fact I’ve a whole playlist of them on Spotify with many favourites. This one I like as much as any other I guess is the theme of ‘The Adventures Of Robin Hood’, you know, the one with Richard Greene ably playing Nottingham’s infamous outlaw.

I’m pretty certain that Robin really looked quite a bit like Errol Flynn I reckon, however, Richard’s version was a nice, wholesome character who I’d run all the way home from school every Friday as soon as that bell rang to see him and his merry men foil the Sheriff yet again. It was like shelling peas.

Junior school pencils, pens and ruler all neatly stashed away, ‘marble machine’ inside the school desk duly disabled for the weekend, to be reconstructed on Monday morning.The next stage was seeing who could stand the most still in order to receive the welcome nod from the teacher to leave for two whole days’ freedom. In my case back to Redhill at warp speed as I didn’t want to miss a single second of what the heck was going on in Sherwood Forest that week.

I read somewhere that there were over 140 episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood which surprised me a little, I’m not sure why. I’d been practising the sound of Robin’s ‘arrer sinking into that great oak tree boooiinnnggg! All week by trapping that 12” wooden ruler in the school desk lid. I particularly wanted the Sheriff to catch another ‘arrer straight through his ‘at.

Of course then there were the days at the City Ground, being swept over Trent Bridge by a family member, seemingly always in a keen, swirling permanently February wind. In the bustling crowd, the moment would arrive and then the clarion call to all Nottinghamians everywhere around the world sounded, the sounds thadduck, boooinngg, ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen’ ringing out. My hero, Joe-Joe-Joe Baker would then sprint out with the lads and I’d almost faint with excitement at seeing ‘Zigger-Zagger’. He’s been gone a good while now but I still worship him.

They were happy and innocent days and this jaunty little theme tune brings back many a cherished memory to me. Play it, go on – you know you want to!

‘Oh To Be In England Now That April’s There’

A recent survey suggested that seventy-two per cent of respondents believed that ‘pubs are important places for lonely people over the festive period to come together with their community.’

Nottingham is now in Tier 3. My own Christmas will consist of being at home alone every single day. I don’t like this at all but I’m not worried for myself, I know I have the strength to cope. I really fear for those that don’t though and what’s more they are numerous and growing in number.

Image: National Trust

So much for looking after people’s mental health. So much for ‘It’s okay not to be okay’. There is a real lack of caring, despite fine words to the contrary.

Johnson has said he is confident the situation will have improved by the spring.

‘I am convinced that by April things will be much, much better,” he told a Downing Street news conference.

Ah, that’s alright then. Just the four months of isolation, not being able to see your elderly or sick relatives, people’s mental health rapidly deteriorating, sometimes to the point of suicide and the consequential suffering of their loved ones.

Four months of hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people losing their livelihoods, the political sacrifice of their jobs, their constant anxieties around this both before and after, bills not being paid, struggling to put food on the table, relationships breaking and fractured families.

Seeing no future.

It is all so incredibly sad, and unnecessary.

Don’t worry yourself though, it will all be ‘much, much better’ in April.

A Christmas Fair?

A Christmas Fair is a mass gathering is it not?

In Nottingham’s case it’s also a bunch of wooden sheds converted from their summer ‘beach hut’ guise with some spray-on snow from Wilkos.

It’s about ripping off people with ever more difficult financial situations because they are in sore need of a little Christmas (or any other) cheer. A fiver for a hot dog anyone? Seven pounds for a glass of mulled wine? It’s about selling junk food and goods at extortionate prices.

The Winter Wonderland in the Nottingham Old Market Square

Outdoor skating, cancelled at Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland for 2020. (Image Nottingham Post)

It’s also about James Mellors Entertainments being in bed with Nottingham City Council and lining that business’s own pockets with low-brow cheap-ass ‘entertainment’ every time you open your eyes in this city. Controlling the public’s Old Market Square and anywhere else they can get their clutches into.

Meanwhile, during this pandemic, decent business such local pubs and restaurants that the community like to gather in have the shutters up and are being sold down the river, possibly into oblivion.T

This fair has nothing to do with Christmas or its spirit and it should especially not be happening this December.

The Tiers Of A Clown

A reported further 1,024 cases in 24hrs in Nottingham yesterday. Numbers further afield into the suburbs and wider county have taken an alarming jump also.

(Image: Nottingham Post)

I made a (probably final) visit to my ‘local’ in the city last night under Tier 2 restrictions which include no mixing with other households. The manager expressed that he would now prefer to close up completely and that to continue staffing the pub, even with just a single person didn’t make sense. There had been very few customers in the two days since new restrictions.

The experience? Well I sat listening to the Down The Slope Hibs podcast featuring an interview with Super Joe Tortalano, on my bluetooth earbuds, sipping pints of Bitbuger. Pleasant enough, but I can do that at home. In fact the pub that I know which is invariably lively with an interesting mix of folk felt more like Seafield Crematorium.

Streets and businesses in the city and local towns have all but emptied it appears. A popular public opinion is to impose a ‘complete’ lockdown. It feels very much like March again here. That’s me done, I’ll be imposing a self-lockdown – for the winter if necessary. Grim maybe, but it might be as well to find acceptance of this now.

University Challenge

(Image: Jem UoN Blogs)

A few figures surrounding the city’s university population as we wait for our fate regarding lockdown today.

University of Nottingham
Students: 35,000
Staff: 10,000
Active confirmed cases (students): 1,510
Comprising:
Students in private accom: 677
Students in university halls: 523
Students in purpose-built accom: 310
Increase in infected students in last 7 days: 1,085
Active confirmed cases (staff) 20

Nottingham Trent University also has over 33,000 students but has declined to publish figures for infection rate among student/staff. (There are no prizes for guessing why.) The above figures can therefore most likely be doubled.

In addition:
City tops the UK for new infections
Median age of people with Covid-19 (city): 21
7-day rolling rate of new infections at Sept 4th (city): 71
7-day rolling rate of new infections at Oct 8th (city): 830

I’ve no wish to vilify students – quite the contrary and I feel they’ve been badly treated – but whilst local authorities and the government continue to ignore these types of stats, closing hospitality, shops and their attendant services is never going to make sense to the public. They’re clearly not the only reason for the dramatic increase in infections in this city but at the beginning of Sept the city’s figures were some of the lowest in the UK. It’s now at the paramount for infections since the large student population returned.

Lockdown Two?

SEPTEMBER 11TH 2020 and here we are, awaiting our cue from Westminster in the morning. Doubtless this will mean more severe restrictions to a wide range of the public. One wonders about compliance in these days.

The amount of people who don’t appear to be subscribing to social distancing, mask wearing and so on is widespread and rife. I stepepd off a bus in a quieter part of the city last night at 7pm and was immediately confronted by scene with 15-20 older teens huddled up together in a tight group. Not a single mask between them. This is not unusual in my experience. It’s like those people are completely oblivious to the situation or think it doesn’t affect them in any way and is not relevant to them. It’s by no mean exclusive to that particular age group either.

Three young females, students judging by their conversation, were walking around the pub with no masks on. All got up to visit the bathroom at the same time…and took their drinks with them, almost unbelievably.

I anvassed a group of friends in the pub about the idea of forming a support bubble between two of our households. Not one person was aware of how they worked. Nor were they interested.

My bus service is pretty decent regards people following safety procedures. It helps that it travels to a rarer route and so has few passengers on these shorter eenings for hispitality. However, a passing tram was rammed to the rafters with students without a mask between them again. The University tram stop was also packed with those waiting for another service.

Probably like many, I feel tired and disheartened with the situation. I personally went through 5-6 months of working from home, living alone whilst barely seeing a single person. Doing my bit like so many others and now here we are again, facing a potential full lockdown in essence. The days are becoming colder and the nights longer without even a few warm summer days to cheers us. The government simply have little idea what to do, they missed their big chance earlier in the year. I don’t even have the energy to be angry at the significant amount of people ignoring the rules. Those without a single care for the health and lives for others. I have no idea of the way out of this but I’m certain that their way isn’t the correct one.

Tipping Point

THE BELOW was written prior to the storm now blowing through about students being confined to their rooms in thir residences – a truly shocking development I consider. The Government’s Test And Trace system has also now staggered into life, albeit with attendant problems.

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I’ve maintained for some time that there will be a ‘full lockdown’. It will be dressed up as something other than that, something with a snazzy new name, say, a ‘circuit breaker’, combined with a spiffing new world-beating three-word slogan to accompany it. (It’s understood by the Government that the public cannot take on information without it written in three parts on a lecturn).

The two-week period variously mooted really doesn’t mean too much. When the two weeks are drawing in another two weeks will be announced – after first being leaked out to break it a little more gently of course – and so forth. They did this in one-month periods on the first lockdown with people becoming increasingly upset each time it occurred. A point about locking down in any form might be to provide breathing space to get the crucial track, trace and isolate sytem going. The problem is the government have had six months to come up with this majorly important tool but decided to give the job to mates and ignore those digitally illiterate Luddites, Apple and Google. Actually criminally negligent.

I know that there are great difficulties and I have much sympathy with parents but for me the children should not have returned to school just yet. Teaching should have been rolled out 100% digitally with various support given to parents to facilitate it, along with a suspension of school term(s) or even a full academic year if necessary.

Similar for the students in higher education. Teaching should be conducted 100% digitally for now. This would have been preferable for the students who now, as well illustrated by recent reports, face a potentially fairly miserable and restricted experience at university. It could also cost many of them a great deal of money being tied into accommodation for an academic year that has arguably only a thin chance of being actually delivered face-to-face. More money needs to be found (but won’t be) to support not only furloughed workers and parents but also the businesses that are nearly on the brink of extinction.

It’s a question of priorities, the UK government can find outlandish sums for Trident (£200b), for bailing out banks (£500b) and so on. Those issues have their own arguments but it illustrates that money is always found when deemed ‘necessary’. It will allow the country’s citizens to suffer though, to lose their jobs, to go without food and lose their homes. To see people experiencing great mental health difficulties to the point of suicide. To witness the significant growth in domestic abuse.

Yes me too, I’m glad I don’t have to now make the decisions on the way forward in this dire situation. One thing for sure though is that if the UK government hadn’t made consistent and continual mistakes – sometimes almost wilfully – throughout, those decisions wouldn’t now have been so difficult or acute. A problem is that apart from not appearing to care all that much they’re really not all that bright. They simply lack the ability, thinking and industry to deal with the huge problems facing the UK.

It’s 10pm And All Is Not Well

I’M SURE the thinking that some people become increasingly drunk later in the evening and less observent of social distancing measures is a logical and reasonable point. However, significantly, it’s a moveable feast.

I wouldn’t particularly argue one way or the other regarding closing times in pubs in particular but certainly, someone who wants to get innebriated won’t allow an early closing time in public houses to change that. They’ll go out earlier, go on to homes afterwards, drink stronger drinks or drink them faster to achieve the same effect.

These things are indicated to me through treating drink dependent people for a good while. A top down, directive approach rarely works that well in these things beyond a certain point. Far better that people become educated and actually want to exhibit these behaviours without being ‘forced’ or ‘blocked’ into doing so.

There are strong suggestions from scientists and health experts that the Government have not consulted with them regarding the likely benefits or otherwise of adopting this latest policy. So much for ‘following the science’.

Unfortunately, many of the general public have stopped listening to or wanting to acquiesce to the UK government’s constantly changing instructions. They have no faith in them, nor do many trust them due to their incompetence, weekly u-turns and abject failure as much as anything else.

The genie is already out of the bottle I’m afraid.

Good Luck, Magpies

BEST WISHES to Notts County in their Play-Off Final against Harrogate at Wembley Stadium today. Just one year ago, this club looked like it was about to become history. Huge tax bills, a winding up order, staff not paid in two months and a transfer embargo in place. Asset strippers were circling. Less than a week before the first game of the season Notts had just a handful of players and had to bring in around thirteen bodies in order to field some kind of team.

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Today, after surviving these times, the hard-working players, their excellent manager, Neal Ardley and the modest and skilled young club owners, Danish brothers Alexander and Christoffer Reedtz, the club has an opportunity to return to the Football League at the first opportunity. Whatever should happen during the ninety minutes, the past year has been one of stability and growth for the old club

Good luck Notts,

In Nature’s Lap, We May Relax

Again. I read reports of huge queues outside my local Sainsbury’s supermarket with attendant forty-minute waits to enter the store. It’s been a pattern, particularly at the weekend recently, to the point that the car park entrance has been closed off and bottles of water being handed out to the long line of people standing outside the store in the hot sun.

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Meanwhile, I’m sat in the garden with my cat buddy by my side, sipping a cup of Italian coffee and listening to some vintage songs on the radio, relaxing after a busy working week. I’m taking in the scent of sweet honeysuckle, something I look forward to each summer. A breeze gently rustles fresh green foliage on the trees. It is an idyllic situation in a most simple and fundamental way.

Technology! I have an online Sainsbury’s grocery order with a helpful supermarket ‘colleague’ placing two weeks’ worth of food and drink on my doorstep this evening at 8pm for which I’m grateful.. It takes me all of five minutes to store if I’m dawdling. I now fail to understand the allure and attraction of spending precious time queuing to enter a supermarket, on a beautiful day especially. Of course, doing so also owns its anxieties too at the current time as many people have expressed.

I will not be heading back to trudging around supermarkets in the future, social distancing present or not. Experiencing change via a lengthy lockdown has finally allowed me to see the light on this little chore, quite literally.

Epitaph On My Ever Honoured Father

O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious rev’rence, and attend!
Here lie the loving husband’s dear remains,
The tender father, and the gen’rous friend;
The pitying heart that felt for human woe,
The dauntless heart that fear’d no human pride;
The friend of man-to vice alone a foe;
For “ev’n his failings lean’d to virtue’s side.”

Robert Burns

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 b. Musselburgh, Scotland

Nottingham: Garden City?

The city of Nottingham presently has something of a disaster on its hands to deal with. As Property Consultant, Tim Garratt says. we are in ‘car-crash territory’ with the conundrum over Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, the major southern gateway into the city.

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(Image: Nottingham Post)

Currently half-demolished with water probably pouring into it and an owner, INTU who are billions of pounds in debt and seemingly financially unable to give the developers the go-ahead to resume work. Probably ever.

I’ll leave others to discuss who’s fault this all is but it brings up interesting thoughts of how modern city centres might look in the future.

It’s not quite as simple as this now things have progressed/regressed but for many years I’ve always believed this very central site should be utilised for outdoor use, an attractive park, performance areas, markets, fairs, events and so on. Retail is dying and the Coronavirus outbreak has brought forward change in a few important aspects of daily life a few years it might be argued. One of those is less use of our cities for shopping purposes due to online shopping.

Major developments in this city have often been linked to student accommodation, another bubble that might conceivably burst due to the effects of the virus as universities take a significant step forwards online learning meaning less demand for local accommodation. This might well be quite disastrous for Nottingham as it has continually geared up for increasing demand to the detriment of a great deal of anything else..

So what are we left with, apart from a few more hardy larger retail businesses (who are also these days under threat) In addition, an over proliferation of restaurants of a similar type and quality which come and swiftly go and fashionable modern, expensive themed bars which rarely show any kind of longevity of lifespan?

Some rather more abstract thinking is now required for the future health of our cities. I hope that Nottingham can possibly, even under duress, be one of the cities that grasps new opportunity and change.

Mr Fox

I often think that in a presently mad world, full of angry people, nature and animals often seem to make more sense than most things.

I feel most fortunate that although living in a suburb, my situation is cheek by jowl with open agricultural land and hundreds of acres of pretty woodland which would undoubtedly have formed a part of old Sherwood Forest in times past

The benefits of working from home. This week has had a couple of afternoons with a fox spending most of the afternoon in my garden. Sitting a few feet from my window it’s a major and happy distraction from work. It’s been rainy here like most places, making for longer uncut grass in the back garden. A glimpse through the window offers a pair of foxy ears poking out of the grass. Almost comically so.

I understand that foxes and cats – unlike foxes and dogs, tend to leave each other alone and pretty well tolerate each other without any great angst. My lad, Gigi, was straight out there though, ears pricked up, searching through the undergrowth for our visitor. To no avail.

It’s like a beautiful, fascinating little soap opera playing out in front of one’s eyes and it certainly beats sitting in an office in the city – hands down.

Ten Weeks of Quarantine

Almost ten weeks for me of living a most solitary life at home. Providing telephone counselling for my clients being the main contact with the outside world.

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It’s okay, I remain strong and resilient and will indefinitely but of course, sometimes the time can drag, there’s a hint of monotony and it can be a little lonely… And then this lad steps in on a Saturday night (and every night) while I’m having a quiet evening alone and comes to me

Gigi has been a faithful friend throughout. I’m certain he can sense my need in that strange spiritual ways that animals often seem to be able to. When people don’t call and the texts and emails fall silent, he’s always there. Cuddled up tight on my lap and showing affection. He makes sense of many things. I do love him.

The Greatest Virus Pit In Europe

Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t live on a small island. Less than six per cent of our land mass is built on. An issue is rather density of population, and we’re not even the highest in Europe for that.

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(Image: James Mylne/PA)

The real issues are that the UK didn’t lockdown that population effectively and clearly, didn’t do it remotely quickly enough, that we lacked testing, a tracking and a tracing ability, The mixed messages sent out for the entirely of the outbreak are UK Conservative government decisions.

These are the real reasons the country has ended up with approximately 36,000 of our loved ones dead according to latest data. Some estimates put the figures as high as 53,000. Another is the highly infectious disease which the government under-estimated. Headed by another virus, our ridiculous cavalier Prime Minister, Johnson.

It’s no surprise that people seem not to understand the lockdown rules, let alone the section of people who seek constantly to find loopholes. The government’s communication strategy appears to consist mainly of anonymous leaks to the media, which are then reported and subsequently partially denied. Witness the drip-drip of information this week.

The government are totally directionless at this point. Prime Minister Johnson, who previously couldn’t manage to stay out of the media has become a recluse in hiding with the politicians appointed to speak in his absence appearing to know next to nothing. The UK is constantly missing targets for testing – even with transparently artificially massaged figures, it is ill equipped with PPE which NHS employers are gagged from talking about and has refused technology from established industry leaders in favour of providing a ‘nice little earner’ for a track and trace app being created by a crony of the detestable Dominic Cummings. Would you really trust that? I’m struggling.

The UK now has the appalling record for second most Covid-19 deaths in the world after the USA. This government did NOTHING as it watched the experiences of other European countries ahead of us in this pandemic and an opportunity to learn.

I can’t imagine many other countries will want to accept people from the UK in the future which will hopefully satisfy the Brexit brain-dead at least. They can stay at home resplendent in their blissful ignorance.

The UK is proudly now the greatest virus pit in Europe.

Good Friday

~

Love Hurts

~

Good Friday Prayer

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our
daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.
Amen.

~

The Peregrine Falcons of Nottingham

Life and nature goes on, although for some it must feel as though it has ground to a halt. The peregrine falcons are back nesting in Nottingham city centre, perched many storeys up on a ledge of Nottingham Trent University’s Newton Building, as they do each Spring. A welcome sight for all and this year, a small reminder that the world keeps spinning and the seasons continue to evolve.

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A Peregrine Falcon in its characteristic missile-like dive

Peregrines are possibly my favourite creatures with their staggering speed in a dive for prey. Some claim this to be recorded at 160mph, other claims even reach to 200mph. Whatever the truth, they are truly magnificent. I hope they are enjoying the relative peace of the city centre in the year of 2020.

Watch them live.

https://www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/peregrine-cam

A Night In…

It’s early days to be fair but television’s response to people having to stay home has been pretty lukewarm in my view. Reading of plans to bring extra entertainment to Saturday night vewing saw the BBC that they were going to announce repeats of ‘Gavin & Stacy’.

Really? Is that typical of the BBC’s conception of adding extra pizzazz to our screens?

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Another example is that of ‘Match of the Day’ being replaced by ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys Live’. I’m no fan of the former with it’s dreary presenters but what kind of insane decision is it to replace it with that absolute garbage, ‘jokes’ out of a Christmas cracker and all. I appreciate they’ve had to have second thoughts since the outcry.

Perhaps the TV companies have decided that we are a captive audience and that they don’t really need to try to schedule decent quality viewing for that reason. If so, they really are not helping in a difficult situation.

Nottingham Diary: September 2019

It’s been a turbulent week on Nottingham’s roads with simply just traversing the city a little problematic to say the least. However, sadly, lives have been lost.

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Last Saturday evening, a man was stabbed to death in the centre of the city. A friend passing mentioned that he had witnessed the victim being unsuccessfully resuscitated. Another pointless waste of life. The fact that part of the city’s roads were closed for forensics that evening and through most of the next day is of no consequence by comparison.

Wednesday brought another fatality, this time on the main thoroughfare, Upper Parliament Street in the heart of the city. A local man, just 34 years-old, was hit by a single-decker bus and was was reported dead the next day. Passing the scene later in the day was a hard view, with the unfortunate victim’s rucksack still lying in the road behind the bus and hard to not see.

Friday came and saw city centre gridlocks due to different reasons. The earlier part of the day saw demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion by way of a massed cycle ride and later, a gathering in Old Market Square. No question that there are difficult issues to be faced here. The movement’s methods will continue to be debated by the public.

It’s still Friday and it’s that day and weekend where Nottingham’s thousands of students descend back on the city. A lighter note at least to see the pavements near my office teeming with students and their parents, arms full of bedding, clothing and foodstuffs for the young incomers. Perhaps the most amusing sight being two young lads each absolutely laden with two-litre bottles of mineral water, maybe concerned about the availability of running water in their new homes. A visit to the supermarket on leaving work saw a scene resembling a plague of locusts having swarmed its formerly heavily laden shelves.

Some people find the preponderance of students around the city from late September onwards an irritation but not me personally, notwithstanding that they’re not vomiting, staggering and crying in the street in the early hours  in the suburb where I live. I do like though, to see that youthful ebullience tinged with trepidation as they leave home for the first time and sort themselves into their new friendship groups in a strange environment. And let’s face it, there’s nowhere stranger than Nottingham at times.

Finally, and like most Saturdays from September to May in Nottingham one of the city’s two professional football teams are playing at home, this week, Nottingham Forest. Approaching the ground is Trent Bridge where a ‘police incident’ has been reported. This, sadly, is modern day code for a possible suicide attempt, in this case a possible jumper from the Trent Bridge into the River Trent’s dangerous currents far below. An increasing trend in these troubled times. I do hope this person is safe and goes on to continue forwards into a content and meaningful life.

Suicide: Risk Factors, Warning Signs And How To Talk To A Person With Suicide Ideation

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and as so many talk of ‘raising awareness’ as the saying goes nowadays, I’d like to talk a little about communicating with a person experiencing suicidal thoughts. Perhaps a good place to start is in understanding risk factors for suicide and recognising the sometimes subtle warning signs.

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Each and every suicide is a tragedy, and one which leaves unanswered questions. Most often, suicidal thoughts develop from deep feelings of hopelessness and an inability to cope with certain challenges in our lives. From this, a belief that taking our own life is the only possible or most simple solution to our problems can grow. A great pity of course is that those very challenges are often temporary in nature. A permanent solution – suicide – is applied to what in essence is a temporary problem. Indeed, it can be seen that most people who survive suicide attempts go on afterwards to live full and most rewarding lives.

Risk Factors

Arguably, the most prevalent risk factor for suicide is that of depression but there are many others. These diverse factors include experiencing chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychiatric disorders, suicide in the family, substance abuse and not least, a previous suicide attempt. Impulsive thoughts, particularly in the young, can play a role too.

Warning Signs

If a person is felt to be at risk due to any of the above they may exhibit behaviour such as mood changes – even to the extent of a sudden and unexpected upbeat mood. They may alternatively display completely new behaviours. These behaviours can indicate a person who is actively suicidal.

A common myth about suicide is that those who ‘talk about it are not the ones who do it’. This is a fallacy. Whether people talk about it or not has no true bearing on the likelihood of them completing a suicide.

People with suicide ideation will commonly talk of not wanting to be a burden to others in their lives, of having nothing to live for or not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They may talk of feeling trapped in some way or of their unbearable pain, whether physical or emotional pain. These types of words can indicate a person who is contemplating taking their own life.

Talking To A Suicidal Person

Here we encounter another great myth about suicide, the notion that talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts is somehow encouraging them to carry out the act. In these situations, it is important to begin a dialogue, to initiate a conversation about the subject. The conversation can include discussion about sources of help and assistance such as attending the GP or a therapist. It is wise to identify a help line such as The Samaritans and to keep that number in their phone or wallet/purse. An agreement can be made to follow up these actions with a future chat in which progress can be reported and reviewed.

I feel it’s better to be fairly direct with a person by asking similar to the following questions:

  • How are you coping with your problems?
  • Are you thinking about dying or hurting yourself?
  • Have you made any plans to take your own life?

The latter – making the distinction between a person experiencing suicidal thoughts and one who is actually making the plans to do it is of high importance. This is not only for the helper/listener but also for the person themselves in understanding and clarifying their own situation a little better.

Samaritans: Freecall. 116 123 (24 hours)   E. jo@samaritans.org.uk (response: 24 hours)

 

 

Gambling Urges and Cravings (3) What Can Help With Them?

In general terms, it is good for a recovering gambler to be as busy and occupied as is reasonably possible. This is not necessarily a lifetime strategy but certainly a most important contributor to overcoming the addiction in earlier days of abstinence. To plan activities, tasks, work and pastimes as regularly as possible is the gambler’s friend and this concentration on activity can assist in preventing gambling urges and cravings forming. What can the gambler do however, to deal with them if and when they arrive?

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(Image: Rasto Belan)

It has been an observation of mine from clients that the beginnings of gambling thoughts and urges are most often of a positive nature. Thoughts about opportunity and winning, coupled with additional thoughts about ways of spending those winnings characterise their first notion when the subject of gambling first pops into the head. One might say that without this feeling of positivity, the urges to gamble might be quite ineffectual and short-lived, for obvious reasons. These thoughts contain little balance or cost benefit thinking so an initial task might, after recognising and acknowledging the thoughts, be to challenge them. A train of thought might develop thus: ‘I have time and opportunity to gamble, money to do it with and that football match/horse race has very attractive odds. I could easily make money on them. With those winnings I could buy this or I could pay off that…’. At this point a challenge is required, ‘But what happened the last time I gambled? I lost money I couldn’t afford to lose and left myself short of funds all month. I felt depressed and anxious. I couldn’t talk to my partner and it affected our relationship’. Just an example and like many strategies practicing it makes it more effective.

Another main area I like to concentrate on is that of mental exercises to distract the gambler from gambling thoughts. Again, the initial acknowledgement and recognition that one is having those gambling thoughts is necessary and we can then turn to the distraction techniques. The central principle is that if there are thoughts about gambling in someone’s head then the most beneficial thing that can happen is simply to remove those thoughts as we cannot concentrate on two trains of thought simultaneously. Counting exercises are popular and effective, often the more menial the better. In my office I venture the idea of counting the many leaves on a pot plant, or looking through the window at a nearby building and counting windows, roof tiles or any other feature. It sounds unlikely but it is effective. Concentrate hard enough on the exercise and at this point those gambling thoughts will be extinct, they will not exist We have already established that for most gamblers, the urges are not long-lasting – possibly minutes typically – and so (thankfully!) these exercises need not last long at all until the gambling urges pass. A footnote might be that occasionally, gamblers believe their gambling urges last much longer that the minutes we talk of here. I would posit that much more likely is the fact that for those people, shorter urges are returning over and over again during the day – much like the waves described earlier

Of course, there are many other distraction strategies to choose from but an important factor in whatever one chooses is to have the strategy pre-planned and ready for any urges and cravings coming along. Know these environment, recognise where and when they most often happen and plan accordingly. I also like the idea of simply talking to others, be that face-to-face or over the telephone as conversations can be quickly engrossing. Other strategies people have mentioned to me include, taking a cycle ride, walking the dog, playing with their children and generally participating in hobbies and pastimes. I quite like to hear of physical activities that are in complete contrast to the gambling activity. All of these can assist a gambler in dealing effectively with gambling urges and cravings.

Gambling Urges and Cravings (2) Why Do They Happen?

Gambling triggers, broadly speaking, can be placed in two categories – external and internal. External triggers are arguably easier to identify and are exemplified by such as physically passing betting shops or casinos, encountering gambling advertising on the TV or receiving communications electronically from gambling companies, i.e. emails or texts offering ‘free spins’ and other offers. We can observe that external triggers to gamble are from things the stimuli we see or hear from outside of ourselves and induce us to gamble. In addition, we can think here of the way that people, places, situations and times of day can offer external triggers. People might often relate the influence of other people as confined to sharing time with others who gamble but other people who create certain moods in a person are less identified but can be highly relevant, as will be explained. Places and situations can perhaps be more easily recognised, examples being at home alone, with an opportunity to gamble online or being in a situation of needing money for whatever reason and gambling to acquire it. Times of day might follow a pattern of opportunities around work, home and social life. For the purposes of this discussion however, I am more interested in the subject of the other category, that of internal triggers.

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(Image: Jeff Prieb)

We can relate internal triggers to how you are feeling and the thoughts you are experiencing – your mood patterns. A classic example might be of a person experiencing low moods, feeling upset or depressed and this creating gambling activity as an ‘escape’ from those moods – classic escapism. This can be easily compared with other addictions and their escapism factor. Perhaps a most obvious example might be that of alcohol, where someone might indulge in ‘drowning their sorrows’ to use a well-worn phrase. The alcohol might work well temporarily in masking or ‘fixing’ those unwanted feelings for a time at least. A problem being that after the return to sobriety the cause of the low mood may still exist (and be exacerbated by a hangover!) The same is very much true of gambling. Individuals can ‘lose’ themselves in the gambling activity which offers them distraction from whatever is creating their low moods. This I feel, is especially true for those indulging in gambling which requires frequent use and response such as online games or fixed-odds-betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops or fruit/slot machines in arcades or other environments.

Another mood type which can influence and induce betting can be boredom. Being under-occupied, living a generally humdrum lifestyle or lacking excitement or interest can lead to the need to chase a ‘buzz’ or a pattern of gambling behaviour which provides thrills – even if only in a gambler’s addiction. Other moods might be anger, frustration, loneliness or numerous others. It’s a useful exercise to question whether any of these moods are applicable to oneself. It may well be key to understanding the prime driver for the behaviour and therefore beginning to work on helpful changes.

As an aside, the subject of ‘addictive personality’ can be interwoven with this subject. Like many, I do not subscribe to such a concept and there is much evidence against it. Suffice to say, people can reach out to various maladaptive coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs or gambling due to the same basic underlying problems in their life. It’s important to remember that people have been trying to ‘fix’ their feelings since biblical times and this provides a good explanation for the above behaviour.

We know that cravings only lose their power if they are not reinforced by further episodes of gambling. This for me is a pivotal consideration in stopping urges and therefore stopping gambling happening. So how long might this desirable state of affairs take to come about – that of the urges declining to the point of extinction? Statistics – which may well not be the most useful resource when thinking about this subject would indicate that a majority of ex-gamblers’ urges and cravings disappear in around 6-12 months. This can be a little disheartening and worrying for people trying to stop but really shouldn’t be. It does not mean there is a likelihood of 6-12 months of purgatory, being deeply troubled by these urges, for after a much shorter period they can be rendered into mere feeble thoughts than can be easily batted away. The length of time that people experience gambling urges is highly variable due to numerous factors such as the level of the former gambling habit, personality traits and circumstances but a pattern emerges indicating that often, urges decrease quite quickly to the point of being much less troublesome after say, a month of abstinence. Some people don’t even experience urges at all it should be recorded. We therefore can see an encouraging pattern for the recovering gambler of the urges decreasing in both frequency and intensity to the point of extinction. The task becomes ‘easier’ at the days, weeks and months of abstinence draw on.

I sometimes use a nice analogy for urges and cravings and that is of a stray cat. If a stray came to your door and you feed it, what would most likely happen? Yes, it will return for another feed. Gambling urges and cravings work in much the same way. If you feed them by gambling they will certainly return.

In summary, one of the reasons it is often more difficult to decrease gambling levels as opposed to stopping it completely is because the addiction continues to be ‘fed’, albeit on a decreased scale, thus creating urges to gamble further. The cycle can then occur of gradually heavier gambling and a return to the various issues this creates. For people who have never been what we might term as a problem gambler gambling more casually can hold together, it is however, most problematic for a person recovering from problem gambling and not advisable.

Finally, urges can be quite intense in the early stages of stopping and can endure for a period of time after the gambling stops so be prepared to accept them as part of the change process,

Gambling Urges and Cravings (1) What are they?

Often, people speak to me in my capacity as a Gambling Practitioner about the subject of the strong urges and cravings they are experiencing whilst dealing with their addiction. Of course, such feelings can leave a person in recovery feeling vulnerable, not to say, anxious. It can also rob them of their confidence in their ability to overcome a gambling addiction and crucially become a part of the process of lapsing or relapsing. To that end, some psychoeducation around the subject of urges and cravings can be hugely beneficial.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         (Image: Jeff Prieb)

It’s important to understand that urges and cravings are actually a natural part of modifying (either abstaining from or decreasing) the gambling activity. Naturally, the more a person understands them, the more this will assist in overcoming them.
I often ask if clients understand the underlying cause of their urges to gamble but find that very few have an accurate conception of why this is. More often they will refer to certain personal triggers which whilst certainly a contributor are an accessory or facilitator to the underlying reason. Simply speaking, urges to gamble are caused by gambling itself. They are generally the result of reinforced gambling activity over a period of time and can endure for a further period after becoming abstinent from the gambling activity. It follows then that if a person has a history of heavy gambling in particular, it’s quite likely they may still experience strong urges after stopping.

What we see from the above is that people fall into a vicious cycle of gambling activity creating urges – urges creating gambling behaviour – gambling creating further urges and so on. It’s for another conversation but here is where an initial intervention and plan is put in place to stop gambling by controlling funds, access i.e. phone/betting shop and/or time and opportunity.

A useful way in which to conceptualise how a gambling urge works is to think of it being similar to a wave on a beach. The latter will begin as a mere ripple initially before building up to its strongest point prior to breaking and flowing away when it hits the beach. The comparison is of a gambling urge beginning as a small thought in someone’s mind, growing and overtaking other thoughts before finally ‘crashing’. The latter is a direct comparison with a wave breaking, where the urge reaches its culmination – either by gambling or by avoiding it.

We find that urges can last for seconds, minutes or for more protracted periods. This can depend on what you are doing (are you occupied with other thoughts especially). Keeping oneself occupied and busy really is the recovering gambler’s friend – preferably occupied with things you enjoy doing but not necessarily. Clearly, the thoughts about gambling then have less opportunity to occupy your thoughts and create those urges. Duration of thoughts can also be influenced by how a person is feeling and this comes into the area of triggers for the activity.

Some Thoughts On Depression

Seeing ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’ is a subject worth understanding how to think about. It can be acknowledged how difficult or even impossible, that can feel at times. A good subject for general discussion then.

Some define it as a ‘dark tunnel’ others as a ‘dark maze’ to find their way through. From a philosophical viewpoint, bringing about ‘light’ might be thought of as attempting to deliver oneself into a better place – one where one feels happier and more content. Sometimes this can be discovered in finding meaning or purpose in life in some way. So how do we do that? It can present a daunting job to many.

I would like to propose a certain ‘re-framing’ of expectations about one’s life. This doesn’t amount to ‘settling’ (for less) in my view (for this can indeed be a ‘happier’ place). It does though entail learning how to comprehend and enjoy those simple things in our lives that we sometimes find ourselves overlooking.

I often think of this change process as a stepped approach. Psychology for example can be so effective in helping with this and yet effective psychological support can be a longer process which takes time to help and re-orient people’s thought and behaviours. Rather, for me, a behavioural approach initially can be helpful – the ‘first aid’ if you like. Clearly, psychology is suited to treating deeper causes rather then just resultant effects/symptoms. However, it may take time, that’s a given. By contrast, behaviours – by using a behavioural approach can change the situation overnight and quite possibly give one the lift needed to get you on the road. Maybe we should consider some of those behavioural factors. Some of them will been overlooked because they feel ‘difficult’ for someone lacking motivation to help themselves into recovery. Nevertheless, they are worth examining.

We can focus on the fact that, yes, some days will just feel utterly rubbish. I think it’s helpful to have an acceptance of that. What we can say though is that there will be times also when that hurtful feeling will pass and you will feel more well. Remember that too.

Living in the present. We might say that in living too much in the past, there lies triggers for depression from when living though previous difficulties and times. Conversely, looking too far ahead and too often, there can lie the anxieties of not being certain about what the future holds. We can never know these things for certain. I present therefore a suggestion to live in the present as much as we can. Practice a little mindfulness and live life.

Social comparisons – try to avoid them, upwards or downwards. Downwards social comparisons (comparing yourself to others who are less fortunate in order to make you feel better about your life does not work. Indeed it can be counter-productive in the way it may make you experience guilt feelings about this. Making upward social comparisons towards people you see in a ‘better’ position than you can of course be sapping and soul destroying. I think the principle here is don’t judge yourself by others. In fact don’t judge yourself at all if you can begin to avoid doing that.

Look to those simple pleasures as much as you can and concentrate on those small things that fleetingly make life feel beautiful. Holding your child, his or her laughter and smiles and you nurturing the child to adulthood. On the note of children, I have a friend who has a picture of herself as a youngster, growing up in the country she came from. Her intention is to look after that little girl every single day as she sets off to to carry out life’s sometimes tough and demanding business.

Further, we all know the small but not insignificant things than can help us. A splash of fresh air and daylight, being active, enjoying friends and family, taking a little exercise, looking after your sleep and eating good food. Getting into ‘good habits’ as a certain football manager from these parts who was ‘the best in a group of one’ would say.

I hope some of this makes a little sense to anyone reading and doesn’t sound too fanciful. They are, for me, things that have taken a long time to understand better in some cases. this is not just through education and training but just as much through passing through a few things in my life too. Those who know me may remember that I had a personal tragedy a few years ago, the quite violent suicide of a partner, one that took a lot of thinking, hard work and yes, sheer perseverance to get through. There were certainly times when I couldn’t ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’ either and felt like I’d be better off not living. I made mistakes (because I’m human), tried and tried again and I probably feel more content these days than I have in many a year, even through my personal losses. A huge factor in arriving at that point was finding something I could do that brought great meaning and purpose to my own life but’s another subject for another day.

Social Media And The United Kingdom 2019

What an ignorant and disgusting cesspit social media has become. Certainly a reflection of what this country has developed into – a place I increasingly despise for so many reasons. Division, selfishness, self-serving politicians and their hideous believers. Good friends becoming former friends due to their beliefs. I do believe this country is all but done too. It will never be the same again.

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As for the former, I’m seriously considering distancing myself from the friction and negativity of social media generally. Not a plea for comment or opinion, seriously, just an observation of the reality of the situation and the experience. I feel other ways of spending one’s time are becoming more attractive than trawling through the garbage spewed up constantly through this type of media.

Sorry, it just had to be said.

Of course we are all allowed out own opinions on major issues, that’s a given but I find the cowardly and aggressive way these views are often expressed through the medium of social media a little pathetic.

I’m not sure what the exact answer is as I would also greatly miss talking to friends that I can’t normally enjoy the company of. I am thinking that the way we manage and interact with social media is key. Having said that I walked away from it for a few weeks not long ago and didn’t miss the habit of it at all.

I think a problem generally is the invasive and provocative nature of reading things on social media that we violently disagree with in principle – that even offend our personal code of conduct and what is ‘right’, moral and honourable in life. In ‘real’ life it’s likely that we wouldn’t keep the friendship or even be acquainted with such individuals that we might consider as having what we discern as despicable views.

I have a general premise for my thoughts on this overall subject. Evolving over a long period of time, through both professional and personal learning, I have come to extol these and attempt to practice much of the thinking around Positive Psychology. I find it directs me towards a more content life. Increasingly, as a part of that, I refuse to let the constantly negative that surrounds us be part of my own thinking, especially as regards individuals who behave and communicate such views. This is not a ‘Pollyanna’ way of thinking but more about understanding what things contribute to the ‘good life’ and what things subtract from it. The latter I increasingly see social media as exemplifying.