Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Alternative Christmas Message

Christmas is almost upon us and it’s time for my Christmas message, so here goes…
We live in dark times at the moment.  We have little to look forward to and there are many who may not make it through the coming cold weather because of the levels of fuel poverty amongst the elderly and those on low incomes.  There are low levels of hope that the current situation will change for the better any time soon and it looks like the ConDem Coalition don’t really care who falls by the wayside because of their austerity measures, measures that are not doing what they are supposed to be doing and rescuing the UK from a mounting budget deficit.
Christmas may lift the spirits of the public for a while with the rush to buy presents for their family and friends but at what cost?  People tend to forget that, after the festivities, the good times have to be paid for.  Most people have credit cards these days and I have seen some instances where individuals have used their ‘plastic friend’ in a most cavalier fashion, running up huge bills that they either have not thought about or ignore the necessity of paying at some point.  Thanks to the austerity measures put in place by the ConDems, there are job losses on the horizon and even more people will be dropping into poverty.  How will they pay the credit card bills they have built up to celebrate Christmas in the hopes that the real world will somehow go away?
I can understand the need to celebrate Christmas although it is not a need I share but, at this moment in history, it would make more sense to celebrate in a more sensible fashion.  This necessity to restrain ourselves when buying presents is not one that is fair or universal.  I don’t think that there will be many MPs whose families and friends will suffer a cut price, bargain basement Christmas but they have the financial resources to not have to worry where they will find the cash to cover their credit card bills.  I don’t think they have even taken the plight of the electorate when they make their decisions, decisions that can make or break an individual and their family.
What really worries me is that the Government and society in general is doing nothing to stop the growing tide of personal debt that individuals create for themselves.  This would be less of a problem if there wasn’t a Government scheme that helps people wipe out the part of a debt that they cannot pay themselves which means that everyone else has to pick up the tab for those who thoughtlessly put themselves in debt.  This state of affairs cannot continue.  It is time we reset the financial system and went back to the days of using cash to buy what we need and want.  I’m not suggesting that credit should be abandoned altogether because there will be very few people who can buy the larger items we need these days but credit such as that should be reserved for those items and only one item at a time.  This is how I have lived, always within my meagre means.  This is how we should all live.
Until next time…

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

My little Christmas message...

I've taken the unusual step of posting this entry here as well as submitting it to Your Thurrock because I get the feeling it won't get posted over there.  It's a little strong for the silly season but, I have to say, it's been toned down from my original that invoked images of Nazi book burning!

So, let’s recap the financial situation we find the UK in at the moment…

We are in the middle of the most severe financial crisis in living memory.  We are suffering the most severe austerity measures in living memory.  The austerity measures that the ConDem Coalition forced upon us to solve the problem of the enormous budget deficit are not going to solve it in the five-year timeframe they thought it would; it’s now going to take seven years, which is longer than the current term of the Coalition.  Austerity measures on this scale have never lasted as long as the current ones have to last, let alone an added two years.  According to experts, it is now too late to stop the austerity measures without spooking the financial markets.  The banks that caused the global financial crisis seem to be carrying on as if nothing was their fault, paying their bosses huge bonuses for their sterling work of bring about a global financial apocalypse; banks who, indeed, threaten to move their businesses overseas at the mere hint of sanctions against them.  The previous Labour Government that allowed the banking system to take such risks with the money in their charge by de-regulation now fails to take responsibility for their part in what happened.


I have been rather vocal in my assertion that the ConDem spending cuts are a way of culling the human herd, of killing off the underclass of society – the people on benefits and the elderly who are seen as leeches sucking the blood from society’s coffers.  Now, according to the local media, pensioners are going to have to make the impossible choice between keeping themselves fed and keeping themselves warm because of the high cost of energy production that is being passed down to the consumer.  And I’m not entirely convinced that it is just pensioners who will be making that choice.  We have extremely cold weather forecast for the coming winter and, even with the poor accuracy of the long-range forecasts, I’m not sure they’re wrong.  So how can the ConDems say with straight faces that their spending cuts aren’t hurting the most vulnerable in society?  I don’t see any of the current intake of MPs making that choice but then, aren’t they just overpaid parasites feeding off the misery and suffering of the people they say they represent?  What I’d like to know is – what are the ConDems going to do to try and help those they have hit hardest with their austerity measures?

If I’m right about the cuts being a way of culling the human herd, can we expect to see the books from closed-down libraries being burnt on huge funeral pyres onto which we will toss the bodies of the elderly, infirm and vulnerable who die during the winter having decided that they would rather die of hypothermia than starvation?  All the Government would have to do is make sure that the pyres are kept dowsed in some flammable liquid to stop them going out and it will look like the Springfield tyre fire in The Simpsons.  The pensions crisis would be over in a flash and the benefit bill would likewise be reduced, leaving the ‘productive’ section of society safely protected from the harsh realities of living hand to mouth, not knowing where the next meal is coming from.  But beware; the lower classes will then be the targets of Cameron and his cronies until only the rich survive.

I may have painted a rather bleak picture but am I the only one who can see this being a real possible future?  I may have exaggerated a bit for the sake of shock value but we’re not far from that dark reality that I have fixed in my mind.

I was a little dismayed that the focus of the recent strike action was on the purely selfish concern of public sector worker pensions rather than the greater issue of how the cuts are going to affect the poorest and most vulnerable.  With such a narrow focus, even with two million strikers, it made for a pretty poor message.  If there should be a repeat performance, the strike should focus on the bigger issue and then more people might come out in support and deliver a message to the ConDems that cannot be ignored.

So, while those of you who are in a position to celebrate Christmas this year, please spare a thought for those who will be lucky to make it through the winter alive.  Be kind and reach out to those in need because one day it could be you.

Until next time…

Thursday, 1 December 2011

What's the use?

It's December and the UK is running head-long into the silly season with little regard to the financial river of shit we're currently swimming in.  Yes, people are moaning at the restrictions on the amount of presents they can afford but they still run up huge bills on their credit cards that they can ill-afford to do.  Those of us on benefits are waiting for the dreaded letter telling us that we aren't entitled to the small amount of money we recieve and that we will be getting less money or, in some cases, cut off without a sodding penny.

But then there's the bankers who are a big part of the reason we're in this mess.  They sit in their ivory towers along with the politicians who are the other partners in this country's misfortune.  All together, they sit there taking from the poor and giving to the rich like a contrary Robin Hood whilst they walk through the devastation they have and are still causing without a care in the world, untouched by the pain that they always say we are having to bear as a nation because "we're all in this together".

The platitudes that spout from the mouths of the politicians provide little succour to the people who, this winter, will have to make the terrible and impossible choice between feeding themselves and warming themselves.  Will Cameron and his ConDem cronies be making such a choice?  Of course not, because they are overpaid parasites feeding off the misery and suffering of the people they say they represent.

I would make this an open letter to all politicians and send it out to every newspaper in the country but they wouldn't listen so that leaves me with only one thing to say - what's the fucking use?

Unitl next time...

Monday, 31 October 2011


Welcome, dear reader.  I know that my recent postings have been a little mundane but the opportunity for deep thought has been out of my reach for the time being.  I do try to think deep thoughts every day but sometimes they just won't spring to mind and I have realised that it's best not to force them.

I do, however, want to say a little something on Halloween.  Tonight, the ghosts and spirits come out to play and, unfortunately, so do their children, looking for that sugary fix that only a bucket full of sweets can give them.  Halloween has been turned into an excuse to stuff our faces full of things that aren't good for us and to watch horror movies but we have forgotten the true meaning of the night of the spirits.  We should take time out to try to commune with those that have departed, to see if we can access the collective unconscious of our race and learn some of the lessons from our forebears before we make the same mistakes over and over again.  This very evening, the curtain between the physical and spirit worlds draws aside and allows us the opportunity to be touched by the supernatural.  What we make of the experience is up to us but I intend on trying to reconnect with those I have lost over the years, even if it's just a chance to remember them and the effect they had on my life.

Until next time...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A week of ups and downs

This week, more than any other, has been a week of ups and downs for me but, unlike a rollercoaster, it has come with corresponding emotions.

On Monday, I had a meeting with the new manager of the project I volunteer with over a situation that has brought the project to the brink of collapse.  All that was required of her was a single name and the assurance that future matters be handled by myself as Chair of the Service User Advisory Group (as that is where the alleged incident took place).  It was an attempt that was supposed to regain a bit of stability for the project and some justice for my colleague - it failed.  I did, however, get some satisfaction for both of us later in the week but I'm getting ahead of myself.

On Tuesday, after yet another fairly useless group therapy session, my soon-to-be ex-wife and I took our hamsters to the vets for their free health check.  Of the five, three hamsters had to have treatment and a stay at the vets.  Rocky was found to have an abscess on her abdomen, Spot had a mass on his testicle and Sleepy was suffering from some unknown problem.  We left them at the surgery feeling as though that would be the last time we would see them as we have already lost one hamster, Fluffy, on the operating table and three others through natural causes.

On Wednesday, I received the divorce papers I knew were coming but was still surprised by.  What hurt most was the way I was portrayed as a bastard with no redeeming characteristics at all and I was left thinking 'is this the way my wife really sees me?'.  She said she tried to explain that it was my mental health problem that caused the problem, neatly side-stepping her contribution to the break-up of the marriage, but she still let them say such horrible things about me.  She said that she would drop the proceedings if I wanted but I know that neither of us would be happy if she did that.

On Thursday, my soon-to-be ex-wife and I went shopping and she picked up the trophy I was going to be presenting on Friday.  Thankfully, this time it had been correctly engraved (this was his second attempt).  We also received a call from the vet telling us we could pick up the hamsters although we could have elective surgery done on Spot to remove the mass on his testicle.  Spot had had X-rays taken and there were no masses in his lungs so it could have been a harmless growth but we elected to have the surgery done.

That evening, I had a call from my colleague to say that the people who provide the training for the project had lost their dog to cancer, following quite a long battle. 

Friday was my triumphant day.  I had planned for weeks to honour my colleague by presenting her with a bunch of flowers and a small glass trophy for all the hard work she has done to build up the project she works for.  Unpaid overtime, constantly running from one end of the county to the other and putting up with a lot of crap from her 'bosses' - she has had a lot to contend with.  We had a meeting with the mental health commissioners who had paid for the project and we had the rest of the project team and some service users along too.  The purpose of the meeting was to give our evaluation of the project and the service users were there to tell the commissioners how the project had affected them personally.  As a bonus, I had three extra bunches of flowers to give out - one to the project administrator, one to the trainers (who lost their dog to cancer) and a final bunch to give to the commissioner who put in the most amount of funding for the project.  The service users stories were powerful and, I was hoping, persuasive, although when the lead commissioner gave her speech, I am left with doubts over whether we will get further funding from them.  Three of the service users presented the flowers to the three other recipients and I then gave my pre-prepared speech honouring my colleague before presenting her with her trophy and flowers.  She didn't blub as I hoped she would have but, from what I was told later, the looks on the faces of her 'bosses' and other team members were payment enough.  I struck a blow against them that they will never forget, which was a wonderful bonus to giving my colleague her well-deserved pat on the back.

That evening, I was able to pick up the hamsters from the vets.  Spot's mass turned out to be an abscess so we made the right choice to have the operation performed.  Rocky still needs a little treatment on her abscess but is coping well.  Sleepy's problem could not be determined although the vet believed it to be some kind of genetic problem as Sleepy doesn't really look like a hamster, more like a cross between a hamster and a mouse or rat.  The vet told me that we shouldn't expect Sleepy to live too long.

This morning, my soon-to-be ex-wife found out how true the vet's words were when she found Sleepy dead, curled up in her little coconut house.  Our four remaining hamsters seem OK at the moment but Rocky and Spot still need some treatment with daily antibiotics and a careful but thorough cleaning.  So like I said, it's been a week of ups and downs this week.

Until next time...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bit down today...

Got served with the divorce papers yesterday so I'm not exactly feeling the best but I knew they were coming.  What really stings is the person who's portrayed in the reasons for wanting the divorce only really bear a passing resemblance to me; I'm kind of painted to look like a complete bastard whose solely responsible for the break up of the marriage and that hurts.

Until next time...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Two columns

I have been putting together the newsletter for an organisation called “Making Involvement Matter in Essex” (MIME) and I wrote two pieces.  The first piece is my regular column and the second is a call-to-arms for mental health service users to get more involved in their care.  I was asked to savagely cut a huge chunk from the former and remove the latter completely.  This has pissed me off to some extent so I have decided to put the two pieces here on my blog so that you, dear reader, can help me work out what the Hell is wrong with the pieces.

The only thing I have removed from the first piece is the name of a fellow service user as it would be wrong to identify him in a public forum such as this without his permission.

I have the privilege to have been voted as Chair of the Service User Advisory Group for the third year of the MIME Project with the added bonus of having a new partner in crime in the shape of _____ _________.  I know from past experience that it is always important to have someone to help shoulder the burden that comes with being in a position of some authority and I welcome the opportunity to build the foundations of a sustainable project with my new colleague.

MIME has a lot of work ahead in the coming months but some of us in the SUAG are looking into the future as well by forming a new sub-committee that will be looking at a long-term strategy for the future of MIME.  Some people may look upon this as putting the cart before the horse and that we are merely setting ourselves up for a major disappointment but I say that we should try to think in a bit more of a positive way.  As a community of mental health service users and carers, we have stumbled so much in our lives that we have let our eyes drift downwards to where we are stepping in case we should stumble yet again.  In doing so we no longer see the beautiful horizon that is the future and see the possibilities that the future can offer us if only we have the courage to reach out and grab them.  It is up to us whether there is to be a future for MIME and that is why the Strategic Planning & Development sub-committee has been formed, to plan for the future we hope will come.

We have seen projects come and go over the years but there has never been a project as innovative and successful as MIME.  Never before has a service user and carer involvement project broken down the barriers between service users and the commissioners to such an extent that the dialogue has become one of collaboration rather than confrontation.  Perhaps I am just a dreamer of wonderful dreams or perhaps I am a poor deluded fool to have such high hopes but I know one thing for sure – I am not going to take my eyes off the wonderful horizon.

Until next time…

Myles Cook,
Chair of the

Service User Advisory Group

Collaborative Practice Is The Future

In these times of economic uncertainty, it is important for service users and service providers to work in a collaborative way to achieve better results for their recovery.  Service users can no longer afford to be passive recipients of mental health care but must become active participants in that care, taking a proactive approach in formulating their care plan in collaboration with their care coordinator and other mental health professionals.  Sitting at home feeling sorry for oneself is not a productive use of one’s time and can be extremely harmful.  The care service users receive is only as good as the input they themselves put into helping build the right care plan.  Yes, mental health professionals have a duty to provide the best care they can but service users have to accept some responsibility too.  Mental health professionals may seem to have very little time for service users these days but that is due more to the amount of paperwork they have to fill in for each client than a disregard for them.  Indeed, up to 70-80% of a professional’s time is taken up with administrative duties, leaving very little time to do the duties for which they trained for so long.  This situation is complete and utter madness especially in the era of swingeing cuts in which we live that has resulted in increasing numbers of administrative staff losing their jobs.  A bit of collaborative work could go a long way to helping ease this crisis by making the service user take ownership of a certain amount of their care needs in the form of some kind of self-help whilst being supported by the statutory services.

The use of collaborative work and service user ownership in their care is only one of the ways in which the mental health service could be improved.  Another improvement can also be achieved with service user and mental health professional collaboration by working together to force the Department of Health to cut down the amount of documentation that professionals have to fill in and the unnecessary duplication of effort in recording the information on multiple systems, none of which are compatible, which results in less time dealing with patient needs.

The mental health service providers are, by no means, blameless in some of the areas of poor provision with gaps in services, poor continuity of care and a blasé attitude in areas where there may be only one organisation providing all the services, but is it any wonder that there are long waiting lists and the impression that professionals are uncaring when their time is taken up with administration?  Yes, there has to be a certain amount of record keeping concerning service users but does it really need to take up so much of a professional’s time?  Why are the health and social care computer systems purchased with no thought given to buying compatible systems so that duplication is eradicated?

At the moment, there is still a rather ‘them and us’ relationship between mental health staff and their clients when we should actually be working together to increase the chances of recovery for the service users, reduce unnecessary paperwork and duplication of effort involved in recording cases, and getting the professionals back to doing the job they actually want to do – helping people improve their mental well-being.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

It's been a while...

It's been a while since I last wrote an entry, partly due to a need for time to reflect on what has been happening to me in my life and partly due to having very little time to write anything anyway.

Things have not been going too well in my personal life – my marriage has ended (although my wife keeps giving me mixed signals so I’m not sure I can really say that for sure now), I’ve lost three hamsters in two weeks from various causes and I’ve been sleeping on the sofa for so long now that people use “The Sofa” as part of my address when they send me stuff.  I carry on, regardless, my voluntary work with Making Involvement Matter in Essex (MIME), which is keeping me busy of late and I’m being trained up to deliver training to other mental health service users and mental health staff so my life is full of activity.  That said, however, I still feel empty, a hollow shell and I don’t know why.

It seems as though, no matter how much time I have for reflection and how much effort I put into my voluntary work, I’m still missing that elusive something that will make sense of my life and what I do have seems unsatisfying, unable to fill the void that lurks in the depths of my soul.

I have given up writing my diary, something that had become the greatest out-pouring of creative writing I had ever achieved, simply because I couldn’t bear to continue.  Everything that I wrote seemed to show just how banal my life had become and it hurt to read the entries.  My intellectual flow seems to have temporarily dried up (at least, I hope it’s temporary) and I find myself thinking in circular patterns, getting more and more depressed.

Have I come to the end of my useful writing life?  I hope not.  I still have opinions and ideas that need to come out, to make people think about issues and to try to change the world.  I don’t know what’s waiting for me but I’d hate to think that I’ve nothing left to contribute to society.

Until next time…

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Just a quick bit of news...

You can read my blog about euthanasia and assisted suicide over at the Your Thurrock website -

I am interested in hearing your views on the subject too.  You can send them to -

See you again soon!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Mid-life blues

They say that life begins at 40.  I have always had my doubts as to the validity of that statement.  Unfortunately, in about three weeks time, I will find out for myself as I am staring down the barrel of that particular gun and that date will mark 33 years of living in the darkest place you could ever find – depression.  Some call depression the common cold of mental health issues, a sentiment that only goes to trivialise just how bad depression can be for someone who suffers from it.  I only know that I have lived in what I call “the abyss” for so long that there is no hope for me to ever reach some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.  Recent events have made the situation worse for me and I can only see the bleakest of futures for myself as I am forced to withdraw from the few people who gave me some hope.

I have begun to continue my spiritual journey that has been on pause for some time because of all the distractions that have presented themselves to me.  The picture that is emerging for me is that I should never have become involved in the affairs of the rest of the human race and should have maintained the position of observer only.  All my forays into the affairs of others has done is to make me feel more and more worthless and used, something that I can ill-afford now.  I must isolate myself from the rest of humanity so that I can be who I am meant to be – a modern-day Cassandra, who can see the terrible future but who can do nothing to stop it as no one believes me.

I can see a dark and terrible storm coming on the horizon for the human race and I must prepare to chronicle it for the future, should there be one.  There are others like me out there who can see the way things are, the way things could be and the gigantic gulf between, and sense that their reason for being is to observe rather than become involved in the events that unfold around them.

From this moment on, apart from becoming involved in things that will, hopefully, make life better for me; I will no longer do anything for anyone.  I will observe and comment on events and situations so that others may act according to their own consciences but I will no longer get involved.  I must now look out for number one and follow the calling of my heart that tells me that I must isolate myself in order to continue my search for my personal truth, return to my spiritual journey that I hope will bring me peace.

I hope that becoming 40 will actually signify the end of my life rather than the beginning as I grow weary of life and long only for eternal peace away from the rest of the human race that has brought me nothing but misery and pain.

Struggling to make sense of life

I am struggling to find any meaning in life at the moment.  I am trying to do the right and proper thing at the few bits of voluntary work I still do but have found myself becoming increasingly betrayed and accused when I suggest something that is in the good of a particular organisation.  This comes at a time when only a few short months ago I was told in an e-mail that they would support me when I made a decision that benefited Thurrock LINk.  Since then, I have been betrayed by someone who I had supported wholeheartedly and accused of making, for purely personal reasons of revenge, a suggestion for an agenda item for the Management Committee meeting later this month.  An item, I have to say, that merely makes clear the responsibilities of the Management Committee to make sure that their elected officers are doing the job to which they submitted themselves as candidates for.

I believe that the Management Committee has a duty to scrutinise the elected officers, something that they have not done in the past, and, as such, Thurrock LINk found itself in a very serious position when revelations about a previous officer threatened the possibility of funding for this financial year, a year that is critical to the continuity of work between Thurrock LINk and the new user-involvement body HealthWatch in the next financial year.  Would this situation have arisen if the Management Committee have done its job and scrutinised the officers at that time?  I have to suspect that it would not have.

I understand that the person who accused me of trying to settle personal scores may have had her doubts as to my intentions but she forgets that whenever a situation has arisen in my other roles that may have reflected badly on Thurrock LINk, I have always sought the advice of the elected officers and/or project manager as to whether I should stand down from my position in that organisation.  I have always done so because I did not want anything to harm Thurrock LINk’s reputation as a wonderful champion for the residents of Thurrock on the subject of Adult Health and Social Care.

All the other stuff aside for a moment, I find it extremely hard to find sense in the Universe when the decision to put the item I suggested on to the agenda lies with the elected officers who the decision affects.  Would they submit to scrutiny willingly, knowing that the answers may have a detrimental effect on how they are perceived by the Management Committee?  I somehow doubt it.  So how can there be any meaning or sense to life when trying to do the right and proper thing can be negated in such a way?  I am struggling to find the answer.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Why I voted 'Yes' to AV

Yesterday, I took part in the referendum on whether to change the current first-past-the-post electoral system to the Alternative Vote system.  I was obviously one of a very select number who did, as there are mentions in the press of only a 10% voter turnout on the issue and the predicted result is a resounding ‘No’ to the change.

I, however, voted ‘Yes’, not out of any love of the Liberal Democrats or of the Labour supporters of the change nor out of any animosity towards the Conservatives, but I viewed the options and believed that a ‘Yes’ to any form of electoral reform.  The AV system was described by Nick Clegg as a miserable compromise and, in that respect, I totally agree with him but I disagree with the idea that we should have voted ‘Yes’ because any change to the electoral system is better than nothing.  The electoral system is in dire need of change, I just don’t think that the Liberal Democrats asked for a big enough change.

Major stumbling blocks for the ‘Yes2AV’ campaign were that the whole debate became too politically partisan, which deflected attention away from the facts of the subject, and the fact that the Liberal Democrats have made themselves so unpopular in their support of their Conservative Coalition partners that the very fact that they want AV, even if it is just a compromise from what they really wanted, made the whole campaign too toxic to support.

So, why did I vote for AV?  Well, I weighed up the arguments for and against, some of which I will cover below, and I will summarise my thought processes now.

  • AV means that some people’s vote will be counted twice.  Actually, that isn’t true because a person’s first choice vote is discounted if their chosen candidate gains the least amount of votes.  Their second choice candidate then becomes their vote, their single vote.
  • AV will lead to more coalition Governments.  This may be true but just because this coalition isn’t doing that well and is relatively unpopular, that doesn’t mean that coalition Governments can’t work.
  • AV will give more power to far right extremist voters.  Sorry, that doesn’t fly either.  Most political parties would be unattractive to people with extreme far right views and, unless a new British Nazi Party or UK Fascist Party comes into being, there are no other logical choices for people with those views.
  • The first-past-the-post electoral system has served this country well in the past.  Wrong.  The current electoral system has meant that a candidate could be voted into office by as little as a third of the votes cast in the election.
  • AV will result in an added expense.  This was the only point I had no real information on.  It could be right.  It could be wrong.  But isn’t it worth the one-off added expense to make our elected representatives more representative of the electorate’s wishes?
  • AV will make politics more homogeneous as candidates will be chasing the second choice vote in case they don’t have enough support to win outright.  I prefer to look at it this way – if the candidates aren’t popular enough to win outright then there’s a reason for that and it would be better for the electorate if they had to work to be more representative of the people they wish to represent.

  • The first-past-the-post system is not truly representative.  If a candidate can be voted into office with less than a third of the votes cast in an election then it really isn’t, is it?
  • AV will make candidates work harder for your vote.  This is true, in that, candidates must make themselves appeal to a wider audience than the one they currently do now (or preaching to the perverted, as I like to say).
  • AV will give less power to far right extremist voters.  Without any real logical options open to them and the fact that the major parties would not countenance views of that nature, voters on the extreme right will find themselves devoid of influence.  It may even put the final nail in the coffin for those parties that espouse those views.
  • AV means less wasted votes.  Currently, people have the choice of not voting, voting for a candidate that has no hope of winning the seat as a means of protesting or spoiling their ballot paper.  Protest votes usually end up going to waste or, even worse, go toward electing candidates with extremist views – not a good use of the vote.  AV, on the other hand, ensures that voters can weigh up the relative merits of the candidates on offer, rank them in order of preference and feel that their vote is still worth something without having to protest in the ways I have previously described.

I know I have left out some arguments, both for and against, and that there appear to be more arguments against AV but I feel that I have countered the arguments against AV quite well.  In the end, however, voting ‘Yes’ to changing to the Alternative Vote system felt right to me, deep in my gut (although it could have been indigestion).

You may have a different view; it would certainly be a crappy, dull world if we all thought alike.  I voted on the issues rather than the mud slinging, backbiting, name-calling partisan politicking that obscured the heart and soul of the matter, tried to look beyond all of that to what I felt would be best for the country and how many others can say that?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Thurrock local election running commentary - The Final Conflict

And so Election Day is here…

It should have been a wild ride of doorstep debates with eager candidates vying for my vote; instead, it’s been the quintessential example of apathy on the part of the prospective candidates.  There has only been one visit to my residence by the Labour candidate and two leaflets pushed through my letterbox, also by the Labour candidate.  I may as well call Val Morris-Cook (no relation), the Grays Riverside councillor as it seems to me to be the inevitable conclusion of such a lacklustre campaign.  If it weren’t for the Voting Card in my in-tray, I wouldn’t even have realised that there was a campaign going on at all.

Grays Riverside is, and probably will remain in perpetuity, a Labour safe seat.  It will remain so until the rival candidates get up off of their gigantic behinds and actually do something to change it, to make people believe that their vote is worth casting.

Democracy in Grays Riverside is little more than a word used when election time comes around but means little else.  It is only when all the candidates make the effort that democracy means anything because then people can make informed decisions on who should represent them on the council.  Low voter turnout numbers are not the fault of the electorate; they are the fault of the lazy candidates who refuse to work for our vote.  The people who fought and died for our right for democratic elections must be spinning in their graves.

As for whom I will be voting for tonight, I will not be voting for anyone.  My Voting Card will be left discarded and unused yet again, despite my enthusiasm to actually participate in a meaningful way rather than the protest votes I have cast only three times in the past on General Elections.  I could have voted for Labour but that would not be right and proper, as I have had no option to make an informed choice as to whether she is the right candidate from the ones on offer.  I could also go to the Polling Station and spoil my ballot paper but then my vote would be wasted anyway so I may as well just not vote.

I will, however, be voting in the referendum on the Alternative Voting system although I am still in two minds at the time of writing this blog.  Tomorrow, I will be posting my decision on AV and my reasons for it.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

It doesn't pay to try to do what's right!

People wonder why I don’t want to get involved with the rest of the human race and I usually give the answer that getting involved just complicates matters.  I can think of no better example than what happened this morning.

I went to the office of an organisation I volunteer for, Thurrock LINk, to ask for an item to be added to the agenda of the next Management Committee meeting.  It was for a scrutiny session for committee to make sure that the elected officers, the Chair and Vice Chair, are doing what is in the best interests of the organisation.  I must say, at this point, that I have an axe to grind with the Chair and think that the person in the post of Vice Chair is the wrong man for the job; however, that does not have any bearing on my request that the two men be put under scrutiny as my reason is a sound one, not influenced by my feelings towards them.  My reason is this – it is the Management Committee’s responsibility to ensure that the organisation’s elected officers are held to account and that they are doing the duties for which they stood for the roles.  I am the Community Co-opted Governor for Thurrock Adult Community College and, as such, I know that the duty of the Board of Governors is to ensure that the senior management are doing what is best for the college.  This is the role at Thurrock LINk that the Management Committee should be holding.

When I put my suggestion for the agenda item, I was accused of trying to settle personal scores with the two officers.  Nothing could have been further from the truth as, despite disagreeing with the decision of the members on the Vice Chair and having a personal disagreement with the Chair, I have always maintained that the officers were democratically elected and that the result should stand.  I do, however, believe that, now they are ‘in post’, they should be scrutinised to ensure that the organisation is not lead from the positive path that it was on prior to the election.

I was asked if I was willing to be scrutinised in a similar fashion to the elected officers and I initially said no because I am not an elected official of Thurrock LINk and therefore had no need to be so scrutinised.  However, following the accusation of personal score settling, I agreed that I would be willing to be scrutinised.  I have nothing to hide but then I am not in a position of power in the organisation and I do not make any decisions that could positively or negatively affect the organisation.  All I was trying to do was put in place some procedures to ensure Thurrock LINk is being run properly and in the best interests of the residents of Thurrock, which is something the Management Committee should be doing anyway.

This, dear reader, is why I try to limit my involvement with the rest of the human race – because all I ever get is accusations, finger-pointing and, invariably, let down by the people I am trying to help.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

On the assessment ward part 2

Please note: This part of my account is written from memory and not from what was written at the time.  The timeline may be a little screwed up but the facts are right enough.

I will begin the second part of my account of my stay in the Assessment Unit following my overdose last February with a step back from where I left off last time…

I had been escorted to my room where I had my bags emptied and the contents scrutinised.  Before I was taken to the Mental Health Unit I had bought a couple of bottles of Cherry Coke for my stay but as my things were being checked through I was informed that I might have them taken away from me as they might be considered contraband.  This was a big thing for me as I don’t like the taste of water and I don’t like tea or coffee.  Thankfully, they let me keep them but I was left thinking exactly what I was supposed to drink if they had taken my drinks away from me.

The room was cold but fairly spacious with a single bed, a bedside cupboard unit, a wardrobe and a washbasin in it.  The wardrobe had no rail or hooks on which to hang any of my clothes so I merely had to place them on the shelves so any pretence of looking even vaguely well dressed the next day was immediately destroyed.  In fact, there was a distinct lack of anything on which you could hang anything.  The washbasin had ‘buttons’ of a sort instead of taps and there wasn’t even a plug for it.  The windows were protected from being opened by huge sheets of transparent plastic so that, if it had happened to be hot, there would have been no way to open them.  I knew that most of these precautions were being taken to protect me from trying to hang myself or throw myself out the window but it also took away some of the little dignity that life had left me with.

I put my toiletries, such as they were, in the bedside cupboard with my Coke bottles on the top.  I felt like crying as I felt as if I were a convict but, to be quite honest, I was too tired and upset to cry.  Tears come very hard to me at the best of times and this was certainly not the best of times.

I climbed into the bed to find that the only covering I had been given was a single sheet and an extremely thin blanket with holes as part of the design, much like a potato waffle.  As I remarked earlier, the room was cold so my bedclothes gave me little warmth.  I couldn’t sleep because the light in the corridor outside my room was on and I couldn’t help but see the glare through my eyelids.  I had been questioned, violated and then left alone in a cold room with my dark, suicidal thoughts.  Hardly the best thing for someone in such a deep state of distress.  I thought that things couldn’t get any worse.  I was wrong.

The next morning, the inmates of the ward and I were woken up and made to go to the combined dining and activity room where the television was mounted on the wall surrounded by a lockable box to prevent the inmates touching the screen.  Thinking about it, I suppose we were lucky in that the box wasn’t locked whilst I was there but one of the female inmates was jealously guarding access to the television and we were forced to watch whatever she wanted to watch.

The staff, in one of their few appearances outside of their office, served the breakfast through the serving hatch from the kitchen, making sure that everyone had something although there wasn’t really much variety in what was offered.  Following breakfast, the staff cleared away the crockery and locked the hatch, leaving only a bottle of dilute-to-taste squash and some plastic cups for us to have between breakfast and our lunch.

I had woken up with a migraine so I quickly returned to my room to lay down with a cold flannel on my forehead only to find the door locked.  We may have been prisoners but our jailers did the opposite of their prison counterparts, keeping us from our rooms rather than locking us in.  I went to the office to ask for some Ibuprofen for my migraine, only to be told that they wouldn’t be able to give me any without a prescription from the doctor who wouldn’t be taking his rounds until later that morning.  In another bit of good fortune, the nurse I spoke to had pity on me and unlocked my door so that I could take the only measures I could to try to get rid of the migraine on my own.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Letter to the Thurrock Gazette

So Jackie Doyle-Price is against the change to the Alternative Vote system - who could have possibly predicted that?  Well, everyone really.  Apart from the fact that the Conservatives do very well with the first-past-the-post system we currently have, Ms Doyle-Price is well known for not rebelling against her party's edicts.

My concern about this state of affairs is that Ms Doyle-Price is supposed to be the elected representative for the residents of Thurrock so what happens if her constituents have views that are the polar opposite of the Conservative party?  Yes, she was elected but how many people actually voted for her and how many didn't vote in the election at all due to the lack of any worthy candidates?  Is Ms Doyle-Price one of those MPs who got elected on fewer than 50% of the electorate?

In my opinion, MPs should only be allowed to explain the options open to their constituents on the subject of the referendum on the Alternative Vote system and should not be allowed to make their own opinions known.  As Ms Doyle-Price is a Conservative who, due to her reluctance to rebel against her party, is little more than a Tory drone with no apparent autonomous decision making skills, she should be even more careful of giving 'her' views in a column for the Gazette.

The decision on how we vote for MPs is up to the Great British public and to make that decision we should be given the facts about the options and not party political propaganda designed to frighten voters one way or the other.

Return of the revenge of the Thurrock local election running commentary

With less than a week to go until Election Day, the Grays Riverside candidates, apart from Labour, have been conspicuous by their absence.
I was hoping for some sparkling debate on my doorstep with people who were enthusiastically trying to get my vote; instead I have been given even less incentive to use my vote at all.  I haven’t even received any campaign literature from any of them either.

If a person decides that they wish to represent the residents in their ward, surely they should be prepared to meet them?  They should make the effort to show that they care about their constituency and the people in it, not just turn up at the Polling Station on the day of the election with a self-satisfied grin on their face and hoping that a quick handshake will get the people to vote for them.

If only the other candidates would make an effort then more people might make the effort to go out and vote rather than complaining about being in a safe seat for one party or another; in my case, a safe Labour seat.

We live in a democracy, apparently, but our representatives, both local and national, seem to be elected on a smaller proportion of the electorate each election.  This is wrong.  People fought and died for our right to have free democratic elections and to throw that sacrifice back in their faces by not voting is the highest insult.  That said, how can the electorate truly be inspired to vote when the people who wish to represent them refuse to make the effort to show they care about the position they wish to fill?  At the moment, the only impression the prospective candidates are giving is one of complete indifference and that only feeds into the view many people hold of politicians as people who are only in politics to feather their own nests with allowances and expenses.

Someone has to change the system to make candidates for public office truly work for their position and, if they fail to do so, the system must have procedures in place to remove them from the electoral process in favour of someone who will.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The case for the legalisation of brothels in the UK

In a time of economic hardship such as the UK is now in, I believe that a solution to extra tax revenue is being over-looked due to what would seem to be a rather old-fashioned, head-in-the-sand attitude.  That solution would be to open licensed, legal brothels.  Now, I can imagine that there will be a few raised eyebrows at that suggestion but I believe that it is a reasonable solution that has nothing but positive benefits for society.

One of the arguments against legalising brothels is that it somehow encourages prostitution; this is a fallacy because prostitution goes on regardless.  Some women have no option but to turn to prostitution to survive and it is these women who will benefit the most from the legalisation of brothels.  Rather than risking their lives on the streets, potential prey for any rapist or abusive clients, they would have scheduled appointments in a location away from any family they may have and to whom they do not wish to draw undue embarrassment.  The brothel manager would employ the women; meaning that there would be extra income from the tax and National Insurance payments each employee would be paying.  And I am quite sure that the Government would make sure that ‘sexual services’ would be subject to Value Added Tax although as a lot of MPs take advantage of these types of services, perhaps, they wouldn’t be inclined to make them VATable.

Legalising brothels would bring in revenue from the sale of licenses (subject to approval) and have the effect of removing an unsightly problem from the streets of towns and cities.

A major advantage would also be that legalised brothels would ensure that illegal prostitution would be minimised and the spread of sexually transmitted infections would likewise be reduced due to regular screening for STIs.  The health benefits of STI screening would reduce the cost of treating those infections on the National Health Service, a massive benefit at a time of cuts in NHS funding.

The women who are forced by circumstances to turn to prostitution would be safely taken out of the hands of exploitative and/or abusive pimps and given some degree of safety on premises that could be visited on a regular basis by the police or some form of Local Authority inspector to ensure that the environment is a safe one.  Legalised brothels would also enable the industry to have standardised pricing for their services, ensuring that those women unfortunate enough to have to provide those services are not being unduly exploited, as the prices would include a percentage that would go towards the upkeep of the brothel and the management personnel costs.

Prostitution is a problem that is not going to go away whether it is legalised or not but if it were legalised at least it would provide a shot in the arm for the economy and safety for the women who provide the services and their clients.

I'm watching you, "Call Me Dave" Cameron!

Tomorrow, the UK is going to be gripped in a wave of patriotic flag waving because of the Royal wedding.  I, however, will not be joining the rest of the country, as I believe that we are being distracted from more important matters by all the media attention being given to the wedding.

I don’t really see what all the fuss is about as the Royal family has become nothing but a joke in the last couple of decades and, without trying to doom the marriage before it’s happened, I really don’t think that it’ll last that long.  I give it about six years which is my most generous estimate but I really don’t think it’ll last as long as that.

While the rest of the country is being distracted by the shiny-shiny event, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the bad news that the Coalition Government will be trying to bury amongst the flag waving crap.  I will point out the bad news I find and hope people will listen but I somehow doubt they will.  Most people these days can’t handle thinking about more than one thing at a time and the Government is taking advantage of that fact.

Tomorrow should be interesting, if only to see how devious this Government is prepared to be.

Electoral reform (Saw style)!

We are a week away from the day of reckoning on the Alternative Vote referendum but will it truly be an acceptable change if it goes through?  Nick Clegg once said that AV was a miserable little compromise compared with the other alternatives in the electoral reform debate.  In my opinion, I don’t think AV will make MPs more accountable, likable or more trustworthy so I have come up with a rather outlandish and controversial version of electoral reform that will ensure that MPs will actually do what’s best for their constituents rather than what’s best for their party or themselves.

I am a fan of the Saw film franchise and believe that we can learn a lot from Jigsaw’s philosophy, perhaps not his methods but I think we should go with something I believe would work.  Not only would this idea help get a truly representative set of MPs but it would help with our ever-growing population problem.

Prospective candidates for public office would be taken to a location with traps similar to the ones in the Saw films and they would be hooked up to portable lie detector machines.  The candidates would then have to go around our trap-laden location in which people from their constituency will be caught up in the middle of dilemmas that will result in their serious injury or death if the candidate is not willing to do what is necessary to rescue them at the expense of pain for themselves.  During the whole experience, the candidates would also be asked questions that would reveal their true intentions for running for office – self-interest or the public good – and, should they lie, the trap in the room will be triggered and the candidate will suffer the consequences in pain and mutilation.  By the end of the trial by fire, we will truly have representative MPs who will do what’s best for the country as a whole because it will be ingrained in their thinking due to the experience.  We’d also have hours of reality television programming to broadcast.  Just think of the money we could make on the DVD sales alone!

I want to play a game. 

You are seeking public office but are you prepared to do what is best for the people you represent or are you seeking only to benefit yourself?  Are you telling your constituents the truth when you say you wish to represent them for their benefit?

In the traps that lie ahead of you are members of your constituency.  Are you prepared to do what is necessary to save them, knowing that you will have to endure pain to do so?

You are also hooked up to a lie detector that will trigger the trap in the room in which you are standing and cause you pain through increasingly high electric shocks.  Are you prepared to tell the truth to save your constituent?

You have sixty minutes to prove your worthiness for public office.

Let the games begin!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Revenge of the Thurrock local election running commentary

It really comes to something when prospective candidates for a seat on the council neither post campaign literature nor knock on people’s doors with little over a week until the day of the election.  Is it a lack of commitment that stays their hand?  A lack of campaign funds?  Or is it that they really don’t care?

I always imagined that people would be falling over themselves trying to secure my vote so that they could start to claim expenses and any payments for attending meetings and so forth.  I don’t believe that there is a shortage of money to be made as a councillor as it seems to me that all politicians seem to make a packet out of what they term their ‘civic duty’ or ‘public service’.  So where are all the candidates?

I know from experience that putting yourself in the public eye can backfire on you in the most awful ways but, if you really want to change things for the better and make a difference in your local area, surely you should have the strength of your conviction to face the people who you wish to represent?  And if you don’t, you shouldn’t run for public office.

I would imagine that the unsuccessful candidates would be the first to complain that no one voted for them and that they were a better choice for the seat on the council than their competitors but I doubt that they would see it as their fault.  They would blame the constituents in their ward for not having made the correct choice despite the fact that they made no efforts in outlining the alternative options that they represent.

It’s not rocket science.  Come to convince us to vote for you or shut up and stop whinging when you’re not elected!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Return of the Thurrock local election running commentary

Well, it’s been a week since the Labour candidate knocked on my door and there has still been no sign of the other candidates.  Is it any wonder that the Grays Riverside Ward is a safe Labour stronghold?  Don’t the other candidates realise that there is very little time left to convince me, and others, to vote for them?  One has to question whether the other candidates really want to represent their neighbours on the council or if they feel that each party has to put someone forward but, as they feel they don’t have a chance of winning the seat, don’t bother to knock on doors.

It seems to me that, with the lack of motivation from the other candidates, there is really no mystery behind the low voter turnout at local elections.  I mean, if the candidates can’t be bothered, why should we?

I have said, in my Your Thurrock blog, that I will vote for the person who convinces me to vote for them but it seems to me that the Labour candidate will get my vote by default and that’s just not right.  It’s also not right that the Labour candidate should apparently win the seat on the council without a fight.  Let’s face it – it’s undemocratic.

I can’t do anything about it this year and, as such, I will not be voting in the election unless another candidate visits me with sufficient time for me to properly consider which one deserves my vote.  It is a great pity as my vote could have decided which political party gains control of the council.

With such lacklustre competition in the Grays Riverside election, if I had the money to run a campaign, I would throw my hat into the ring as an independent candidate when the next seat comes up for grabs just so that the democratic process is properly adhered to.  I doubt I’d win the seat but no one should gain a seat on the council without a proper fight, which is the situation in which we apparently find ourselves now.

How many other floating voters are out there just waiting for someone to knock on their door to give them a choice in who represents them on the council?  I can’t be the only one, can I?  Or has the idea of democracy died here in Thurrock?  There are twelve days left including the day of the election.  Will anyone bother to vie for my vote in that time or will my voting card be left unused again this year?  Time is running out!

Thurrock local election running commentary 1

This was originally submitted to Your Thurrock but it wasn't posted so here it is.

The first shots in the war to win my vote were taken last Saturday (16 April) when the Labour candidate for the Grays Riverside ward took up the challenge to convince me to vote for her.  Amazingly, it really was the candidate and not one of the party faithful who knocked on my door so I have awarded her some bonus points.

Starting off with the initial question of whether I’ve voted for Labour in the past and after telling her that I was willing to be convinced this time around, the candidate launched into her sales pitch.  I have to say that for someone who claimed not to have read my blog, she was certainly saying everything I wanted to hear – that she was willing to put aside party politics and work together with all parties in the interest of doing what’s right for the community and so on – and that started alarm bells ringing.  Was she really telling the truth or telling me what I wanted to hear because she had either read, or was told the substance of, my blog?  Politicians aren’t particularly known for telling the truth when they are fishing for votes and her comments did seem as if they had been prepared.

If the candidate in question has decided to read my blogs in the future then she may well believe from this mini-blog that she has no hope of convincing me but she’d be wrong as I am reserving judgement until the other candidates have had a crack at me.  One thing is for certain, Grays Riverside Ward is a Labour stronghold, being held entirely by that party, but the voter turn out in that ward is terribly low and with control of Thurrock Council on a knife-edge, each candidate is going to have to pull out all the stops regardless of whether they are in a relatively safe seat or not.  All it will take is for one candidate to convince more people to make the effort to go out and vote and control of the council could swing towards another party or solidify the position as it is now.

There are four more candidates in Grays Riverside Ward – Conservative, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and BNP – and there isn’t much time to go before the election.  Come on, you guys, come and get my vote!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why can't we all just get along?

The trouble with the world is that there are so many ideological differences – in politics, in religion and so on – and it is these differences that stop people getting along with one another.

To take politics in the UK, for example, the major political parties are separated by the way they view human beings, whether they can get along with each other or whether they need to be told what to do.  There is never going to be any acceptable middle ground in this type of ideological conflict.  Socialists believe that humans will inevitably form communities due to our social nature and that these communities should look after those less able to look after themselves, which leads to them increasing public spending on social benefits and public services that, supposedly, make our society a more equal one.  Conservatives are traditionalists who believe that humans are imperfect and, therefore, require a more authoritarian rule to keep them in order.  Conservatives seem, on the whole, to be more in favour of cutting public spending and making people stand on their own two feet whilst maintaining an authoritarian control on them.  Liberals, on the other hand, believe in the individual’s right for freedom, reason and justice whilst ensuring that the society they build is a tolerant one.  A liberal society is meant to be a meritocracy in which individuals rise due to their labours and not through wealth.

Now, while liberals and socialists are closer in their views of human beings as social creatures, the liberal idea of a meritocracy does not really fit with the socialist view of the redistribution of wealth to the less fortunate and neither view works with the conservative view of the human race.  And so the dispute over which view is superior and/or correct continues.  This, of course, makes it so much harder to have a government that actually deals with the problems that the society they rule over presents them because they are always fighting with each other on purely ideological grounds, scoring points off the other party simply to prove who is right.  Surely a better way would be for ideological differences to be put aside so that society’s problems could be solved in a spirit of co-operation?

Now I think we’ll look at the problems of religion…

I think that it is almost a universal constant in the different religions that peace and love is at the centre of them, however, it is also true that there seems to be inherent in most religions a lack of tolerance for views that oppose the view of the religion in question.  Judaism is, for the most part, Christianity without the mucky New Testament and Jesus stuff that they disagree with.  Jesus in the eyes of the Jews is certainly not the Son of God.  Muslim beliefs also follow a similar path to Christianity with certain differences and it is really just a matter of how God is worshipped that separates the three religions.  Christianity has also found itself split apart into different breakaway sects or churches based on interpretations of the Holy Bible, which thankfully have not turned into major conflicts for dominance.

Some Islamists, however, have allowed a certain interpretation to turn a disagreement on who’s right into a violent conflict that has devastating consequences for the entire world.  Surely a better way would be to agree to disagree on the exact nature of how God should be worshipped and just concentrate on praising whatever deity, force or intelligence you happen to be believe in, in a spirit of mutual toleration and, though I hate the term, brotherly and sisterly love?  Surely what matters is an individual’s personal connection with their deity of choice and not how or who other people choose to worship?

Wouldn’t life be better if we just forgot all the differences, celebrate them, for sure, but try to get along?  The human race will be stuck in a cycle of pointless conflicts if we don’t put aside our differences for the sake of all.

Elisabeth Sladen - gone but never forgotten

Last night I heard the sad news that Elisabeth Sladen passed away after a battle with cancer.  I did not know her personally but, along with thousands of other Doctor Who fans, I thought of her as a friend.  Lis played the role of Sarah Jane Smith for three and a half seasons alongside the late Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, becoming one of the most popular companions to the infamous Time Lord.

A stronger female character than some of her predecessors, the rapport between Lis and the lead actors she worked with could be seen on screen in every scene they played together and created some of the most emotional scenes Doctor Who ever had.  Sarah Jane Smith was, to all intents and purposes, a personal friend to every Doctor Who fan and, by extension, so was Lis Sladen.

The popularity of her character was such that she returned to play the role in the only spin-off from the ‘classic’ series, K9 and Company, although the hoped for series never actually came to fruition but that was not the last fans would see of Sarah Jane as she made an appearance in the twentieth anniversary story, The Five Doctors, in 1983.  Even then, Lis would return to the role in her own series of audio adventures, Sarah Jane Smith, for Big Finish before returning to the small screen for appearances in the new Doctor Who and finally being given a series of her own, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

During the period between her regular appearances in the ‘classic’ series and her return in the new series of Doctor Who, Lis returned to Liverpool to take up work in the theatre and raise a family, a brave decision at a time when she was a very in-demand television actress but one she never regretted.  Her return to Doctor Who came as a pleasant surprise that resurrected her television career and Lis became a role model for a new generation of children, a gift I hope they appreciate.

My own personal memories of Lis are of the first time I met her at a Doctor Who signing in London.  I had no idea that signings happened or that there were so many fans as I seemed to be the only Doctor Who fan I knew so I turned up to my first ever signing, half an hour after the start of the event, to find a mile-long queue of fans.  The signing continued well after it was supposed to have finished but Lis had insisted that everyone who had come would go away with an autograph and that they did.  She managed to smile through the whole event, remaining cheerful and friendly, and making sure that all the fans had a good time.  It was thanks to Lis’ wonderful attitude that I became a regular attendee at signings, hoping to see her at any conventions I managed to afford to get to and, thanks to her wonderful portrayal in the series, kept me able to handle my depression as well as I did.

Lis Sladen was a wonderful, enthusiastic, warm and engaging actress and an equally wonderful person who will be sadly missed by all her ‘friends’ in the Doctor Who fan community.  The Universe will be a little less bright from now on.

Rest In Peace, Lis.