Friday, 31 October 2008

Abuse Victims Punished

In July this year I published a post, "Family Courts and Injustice", which highlighted articles,  written by Camilla Cavendish, from The Times.  I have another article of hers from last week filed away ready to appear here but an article from today's Times jumps straight to the head of the queue.

Today, Camilla Cavendish describes the horrendous case of a mother who ......  Shit!  This is so bad that there's no point in my writing a precis.  Just read the entire article - sorry it's very long - and then scream at the injustice.


"First battered at home and then by the State

Women who manage to escape domestic violence then find themselves under suspicion and facing a wall of silence

When I first started campaigning for children who had been taken from their families by local authorities on what I felt were flimsy grounds, my editor told me to keep writing “until we're sick of it”. I apologise to readers who have reached that point. But a case has been raised with me by an MP who is being prevented from helping a constituent because the local council believes that it is obliged to withhold most of the relevant information. That is worrying.

Tim Yeo is concerned about the treatment of two constituents by social services. Ann - not her real name - was in an abusive marriage. The council advised her to move into temporary accommodation the next time her husband became aggressive. She did.

At this point Ann was a textbook victim. Her little boy had had an operation. She cared for him and took him to medical appointments. When she started living with another man, Bob, and got pregnant by him, her ex-husband sued for custody. He claimed that Ann suffered from a condition that used to be called Munchausen's syndrome by proxy and is now known as fabricated or induced illness (FII). This would have led her to pretend the child was ill.

Despite a surgeon explaining that he had made most of the medical referrals, social workers seem to have become convinced that Ann was a liar. When a teacher reported that the boy was scared of his dad, the idea was said to have been put into his head by Ann, because he used “adult words”. The father won custody. Ann's little boy now sees her for only three hours a week.

It is one thing for the system to decide that a boy is better off with his father than his mother. It is quite another to take a child from its parents into care. When Ann became pregnant, the council was concerned. She and Bob found its suspicion hard to bear. She tried to express this to a social worker by saying that Bob felt like killing them all if their baby was also taken away. It was a disastrous mistake. Police arrived. Bob was marched out of the house. A few days later, their baby was removed.

Mr Yeo has written to the council to ask what justification there was for removing a ten-week old baby from a couple who have never been charged with an offence. The council's previous replies to his requests for information are not encouraging. Ann and Bob want their MP to know all the facts of their case, however damaging it might prove to them. Mr Yeo would treat this in confidence. But the council says that it is bound by confidentiality. It cannot disclose information about families with which it works. So Mr Yeo is in the dark. He cannot advise his constituents without seeing the files.

What constitutes “confidentiality” for a ten-week old baby? Should her right to privacy trump her right to family life? If a council puts people under such pressure that one of them makes a silly remark and it then punishes them for that remark, is that not persecution? Not only is Ann a victim of domestic violence, but the State has made her a victim a second time. If she really is ill with FII, she needs help. Yet all she has received is punishment.

This story looks like an example of a Catch-22 that I have begun to notice. You could call it “once a victim, always a victim”. It is well known that if you have been in care yourself, the authorities are more likely to consider you a risk to your child, keep you under scrutiny and to put your child in care. But it appears that something similar holds true if you have suffered domestic violence. It is not illogical to keep tabs on women who have fallen for cruel, manipulative men who can harm them and their children. What is surprising is that allegations made by such men are given so much weight

In the past three months I have spoken to a surprising number of women who have escaped domestic violence only to find themselves accused. First, they are blamed for having exposed the children to violence. Then, when they get up the courage to leave, they are suspected of being too weak to cope alone. One woman told me that she was labelled as a “weak parent” because she rang the police whenever her ex, against whom she had a restraining order, prowled round her home at night. Many claim that their ex-partners started to accuse them of being mentally ill as soon as they departed or after they turned down a derisory divorce settlement. Thus the psychological abuse continues.

The coup de grâce seems to come when women who make the break, and manage it well, then find themselves accused of obstructing access to the children. The system is understandably keen to keep children in touch with fathers. But this can create a double bind.

I recently spoke to a manager of a refuge for battered women. She is furious that a family judge has revealed the address of this refuge, which is supposed to be secret, by insisting that the father be told where his children reside. The father is now sending threatening mail there, and arrives there for visits with the children. So a woman who had been urged to make a clean break is still being browbeaten. The refuge staff fear that this man may eventually get custody of the children, by arguing that their mother is depressed. The authorities will have made her so.

I do not know how widespread this phenomenon is. But too often, power seems to tip the wrong way. The abusive partner gets custody. The innocent new father loses his child. The MP - one of the only people that Bob is legally allowed to talk to - is kept in the dark. Mr Yeo believes that “a family is being split up because of decisions taken by unaccountable officials who are hiding behind the law”. Can a system that relies on circular logic really speak for the children?"

— Camilla Cavendish has been shortlisted for the 2008 Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism for her family justice campaign


Why are some women abused by their partners and then abused by the very services who should be helping? 

Why are these vulnerable women not supported?

Why do Social Services turn from helpers to abusers?

How do the abusers manage to swing the system to support them?


Might it be that abused women are weakened by the abuse?

Do the women appear to be over-protective of their children?

Does the abuser come over as pleasant, rational and level-headed and the abused woman as fearful and frightened and over-protective?

Are Social Services blind to the effect that abuse has on women?

Do Social Services actually blame the women for being abused by their partners?  Their actions defy logic and then they claim confidentiality  - no doubt to protect a child - to prevent any appeal.


The injustices meted out to abused mothers is completely unacceptable.  We cannot stand by and let this continue.


Please support Camilla's campaign. 


There are links to several of Camilla's articles in my first post on family courts and injustice.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Not Laughing Now!

Not laughing now!

Furrowed brow

Head in pieces

Pain increases

Strength slipping

Needs outstripping

Skills of coping

Only hoping

Hurt adjourns

Peace returns

Some hope

What Goes Up ......... Picture Post!!!

There has been so much interest in my original "What Goes Up ........." post that I think it is appropriate - possibly, well probably not - to take this blog into new, uncharted and contentious territory.

The post title is the giveaway. I now have a photo which is associated with the original post!

I'm so worried about the photo that I'm going to give a link only.

If you are of a nervous disposition or easily upset please do not view this photo.

To see the photo click on this link at your risk only.

You have been warned! :-)

Monday, 27 October 2008

What Goes Up .........

Yesterday's Observer 'paper included a magazine with the title "Sex Uncovered". I know you'll not be interested in the content but there is one article to which I must refer.

A nurse - female - describes some of the scenes which appear in A&E. I guffawed at a few examples. You, however, being very prim and proper will probably utter a "tut tut".

"A vicar came in once with a potato stuck up his bum. He was mid-fifties, with grey hair and well spoken. He walked in and said: 'I've had an accident.' He explained to me, quite sincerely, that he had been hanging some curtains, naked, in the kitchen, when he fell backwards on to the kitchen table and on to a potato. It's not for me to question his story but it was a big potato. More baked potato size than Jersey. He had to undergo surgery to have it removed."

Lesson: Don't hang curtains when naked. If you must hang curtains when naked tie string to any potatoes lying about.

"A young lad came in, in his early twenties. He had a long jacket on, opened it, and there it was. He had got a carnation stuck in his willy. He said he's been doing it for pleasure. I've never seen that before and doubt I'll see it again. All the nurses came round for a look."

Lesson: Never do this with a rose! Please display flowers in a vase with water.

"A woman came in with a vibrator stuck up her. She had a large anatomy. She was a big woman, in every sense. The thing was, the vibrator was still on."

Lesson: Wait until the battery runs out before going to hospital. Why buy size 16 clothes when you are a size 8?

One case which didn't reach A&E was:

"One couple got suctioned together in the bath and had to call the paramedics to prise them apart."

Lesson: If you must have sex in the bath make sure you have a friend in the bathroom with you.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Thoughts on Suicide

Let me make clear right at the start of this piece that I am not, have not been, thinking about suicide nor has the post been sparked off by any family or friends thinking about suicide. The assisted suicide of the paralysed rugby player, Daniel James,  has made me think about the role of family or friends when a loved one is contemplating suicide. 

I am not concerned in this post about the legal position but only the moral position.  This is a subject on which a treatise could be written and probably has been but not by me.  In this short post I can only touch on the most simplistic arguments.

I can imagine that many will believe that one must actively work to prevent suicide of a loved one so as to prolong life but I don't buy into this any more.

If the state always worked to prolong life and prevent premature death then I might have more sympathy but the state doesn't always do so.  NICE guidelines prevent some patients from receiving treatment which would prolong life whilst allowing treatment for others.  Therefore, the state prolongs the life of some and hastens the death of others who want to live longer.  Those whose deaths are hastened by the state haven't made the decision to die sooner.  That decision has been made for them.  Why therefore, should a loved one not help to hasten the death of one who has chosen to die sooner?  

But just because the state hastens the death of some doesn't make the decision moral and nor does it for individuals. 


Therefore, how does one judge the moral issues?


I contend that IF it is moral for a person to commit suicide then it must be moral for another to assist that suicide but this does not mean that there is a moral duty on another to assist.  However, I believe that there is a moral duty on another not to prevent a suicide.  [More of this point later]


Let's consider the morality of a person who commits suicide.  Many will say that it is immoral to do so; some on religious grounds.  Who determines the morality of an action?  We can all have a view but only the person alone has the moral authority to decide to commit suicide.  If the moral authority does not reside with that person then who does decide.

The state?  How would the state decide?  Does the state own us?  No!

A religion or religious leaders?  How can a religion / religious leaders decide for those who are not believers?  They can't but what of believers?  I would contend that, even for believers, religion or religious leaders do not have the moral authority but if believers wish to give up their own authority to their religion then that is a matter for them.

If not the state and not religion what options remain. Where might the basic moral authority lie?  I can not see beyond the individual. 

I believe the individual has the moral authority to commit suicide and further that authority is not diminished even if the individual has a partner and children.The individual will, in all likelihood, take family into account in a decision but having family should not, cannot make suicide an immoral act.

Now having come to the conclusion than an individual has the moral authority to commit suicide then by extension it is moral for another to assist that suicide.


What happens if the other person finds suicide an immoral act.  What should this person do if a loved one  - or, in fact, anyone - wishes to commit suicide? 

Must this other person assist?  No?  One cannot be forced to participate in an act which one finds immoral.

Should the other person who considers suicide an immoral act do everything to prevent the suicide?  I imagine that this would be a very contentious area.  In this example there is a clash of moral authorities: the person who wants to commit suicide who, I contend, has the moral authority to carry out the suicide and the other who just as strongly believes the act is immoral and should be prevented.

Basically, there are three acts which the other person can take:

1   work to prevent the suicide and to prolong life

2   do nothing to prevent or assist the suicide

3   work to assist the suicide

To the potential suicide victim (victim is an interesting word given that suicide is an event of choice and not of chance) option 1 is unacceptable but to the other person 1 is the only acceptable choice. 

What to do? 

Whose moral choice takes precedence?


There are those who would say that in this situation the preservation of life must take precedence but those are likely to be the same people who believe suicide is an immoral act.  This is a circular argument: those saying suicide is an immoral act say life should be preserved because suicide is an immoral act. 

Something more is needed.

I can break this moral dilemma by saying simply that the person most affected by the act has moral precedence and that is the person who wishes to commit suicide. 

Ultimately the individual must have the moral authority to act on himself and another person should not intervene to prevent that act, that suicide.


In real life, however, I expect the situation to be quite different. 

If one comes across an attempted suicide one is unlikely to stop and think about the moral dilemmas involved.  Rather one is likely to "dive" in and attempt to save the "victim".  Last year I did.  I never stopped to think. I acted to preserve life.  Was it a moral act?  This post would say that it was not.


Another dilemma - morality versus the ingrained reaction to an emergency.


Another day perhaps I'll look at this too.

"Morality of Suicide" Post - Coming Soon

After my short break to sort out a non-family issue I'm almost ready to return with a short post about the morality of suicide and of assisting a person to commit suicide.  The post is 3/4 written and should appear later today or tomorrow.

The post was prompted by the assisted suicide of Daniel James, a 23 year old who was paralysed from the neck down after a rugby injury.

I was tempted to call the post "Thinking about Suicide" but, probably, that would have caused panic.  Mmmm, might still use that title to draw readers in!


I know it's difficult for you to hang on until my next proper post appears but that's the price of your being strongly attached to a very busy and brilliant blogger. 

Nothing like self-delusion, is there?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Few Days Not Posting

I'll probably not post for a couple of days.  Non-family issue cropped up.

But will only be a short delay.


Also let me clear up any confusion about my last post, "Nothing Really Matters ...".   This was an absolutely straightforward post with no hidden messages about how I was feeling. 

I'm fine.  I'm busy although not as busy as I should.  No cause for concern - definitely.


Sorry if I was unclear.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Nothing Really Matters ....

"Nothing really matters, Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Any way the wind blows"


For some reason, a few minutes ago, these lyrics popped into my head.  A very rare occurrence this: swear words often float in but not lyrics.

But why these particular words?

What do they mean?

Need they mean anything?

Why now?


I don't know.  I really don't.

I do believe they have some direct relevance; that they didn't just appear randomly ...... but what?


The words don't reflect my reality: so much matters.

Perhaps I feel that too much matters to me and the words are a message to focus on less.

Perhaps I should forget all about the words and get on with what does matter.

But I am intrigued ....... which is always bad news because it means I will continue to think.

But I can't ever know and this is truly trivial.

Let it go, Calum.

OK .... but ....

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

New Medical Procedure Causes Havoc on Blog

It is with sadness that I must record a new, or so I assume, medical procedure which many of my readers have undergone, probably without their knowledge and consent.

What is this procedure? 

Partial or total humorectomy

What's my evidence?

Well, when I posted about apparently funny happenings in my life, readers found them funny to the point of my being asked for more.  However, when I post a fictional funny story the response at best is cool (e.g. Monday's post - Top Bank Role?).

I have used my massive brain power and I confirm that there are only two possible explanations: either the post is NOT funny or readers have had a humorectomy. 

We can rule out the first possibility because I find the post funny.  Therefore, readers must have undergone a humorectomy.  Sad but true. 

I assume that for most of you the procedure is only partial but even for that you have my sympathy but you do need to be aware of the effect this has had on me and my blog.  For a few microseconds I considered the possibility that I might be wrong and the post was not funny. 

Can you imagine how troubling that is.   The post might not be funny!  Stop the blog, I want to get off! Fortunately, I realised that I couldn't be wrong.  The post IS funny - I laughed after all.


You, my dear readers are not complete! 

You have been operated on!

Evil has visited you and left you with only a partial sense of humor. 

I feel really sad for you.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Summer's Passed and Present

With summer gone now and with no post in sight I'm left with a retrospective photo post: pics from this and previous summers.

                                          Garden 5-1                                        blue poppy










RIMG0058 P1000306-1


Caledonia returning to Oban from Mull   From Dunollie castle Sept 1986


Lismore ferry in Oban bay  Sept 1986



View from Dunollie Castle 2    Sept 1986


RIMG0026 RIMG0041

I don't think any commentary is needed other than for the last two photos.

Bonfire: heating needed at a barbecue!

Horned beast: Calum!!

If you hadn't guessed already I love boats.

[My "smart" title makes the grammar impossible to square]

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Human Experimentation on Indians


Today I bring you an appalling, an obscene story.  No! The story is not obscene.  The behaviour it describes is obscene!

".... a few years ago, Professor Nigel Heaton and his team at Kings College Hospital went to India and performed a procedure that was not even approved for the NHS at the time. His consenting procedure was flawed. No one had been informed of the grave risks to the donor. The BBC filmed the entire process but failed to feature the film when the procedure went wrong. Both patients - the one who needed the liver transplant and his healthy wife tragically died. Mr Heaton never responded to the family's concerns."

To read more about this story please visit here.  Rita Pal displays her normal thoroughness and she is to be congratulated for bringing the story to us.


Now we need to pick up and run with this.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Posts Deleted


Some of you may be confused.  I have deleted my two posts from earlier today:

Teaser: Find the Link - Update and Insight

Monochrome Monday - Lines: Unofficial

I thought I'd make things easy for myself with two simple posts.  On reflection this was a mistake; the posts were simple but they were also crap hence their deletion.


Perhaps, surprisingly, I have standards to uphold.  Ideally I catch the posts before publication but if not then .......


I apologise to those who had commented on either or both posts.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Childhood Reminiscences No 4 - Transport and Travel

In January I started a mini-series of reminiscences of my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s in urban Scotland which were times of immense change. Unfortunately the series has become very intermittent, this being only the fourth post. Links to the first 3 posts in the series are listed at the end of the post.

Certainly changes in transport and travel have been extraordinary!

Cars were relatively uncommon in our street. Rarely would our playing be interrupted by a car driving along the street far less a parked car causing an obstruction.

Certainly of those who lived around us we were quite early adopters buying our first car in November 1959 - a Morris Minor 1000 like this one although ours was grey.

Morris Minor 1000 1958

How basic cars were: no radio, no seatbelts, no safety equipment, purely functional only. The Minor 1000 didn't have indicators but had trafficators: one small orange arm (about 6inches long) on each side, between the front and back door windows, which flicked out horizontally. We thought they were much better than the new-fangled flashing indicators. Even in 1959 there were very few cars in our street.

Our second car - 1964 - was a dark green Morris 1100 (similar to the one below): the first model with hydrolastic suspension.


Even in these few years there had been quite an advance in design.

From the early 1960s cars lost their novelty value as more and more people could afford them and, as they became more common, they started to affect our street playing. On Friday last I drove along our old street and even at midday there was barely any pavement space available. Back then the whole street, pavement and road, was safely available to us.

This was the start of the car becoming the dominant mode of transport. However as the car became more and more important, famous makes and models started to disappear. Below is a small list, by no means comprehensive,

Baby Austin A30
Ford Prefect
Jowett Javelin
Ford Anglia
Sunbeam rapier
Singer gazelle
Hillman Minx

of names which were common but which were overtaken by time.

Before the car took over though, was the train - steam trains. When we went on holiday we went by train; we went on a Sunday school picnic by train, we went 4 miles to a football match on a football special.

Dr Beeching transformed the railways, unfortunately. Soon we had lost one of our two stations and the line going west. Dirty and grimy the steam trains were and they were on the way out but fortunately I caught the tail-end of steam. I also got the train-watching bug until steam was replaced by those incredibly boring DMUs - diesel multiple units. Trainspotting stopped dead.

Steam trains were alive in a way which no other form of transport is. The steam, smoke, whistle, hissing, spinning wheels and much more. These were the most powerful but wonderful creatures.

Prime time for spotting was 8.15ish and 13.15ish. In the morning the engine which had pulled the train from London to Edinburgh then went onto Perth with the return to Edinburgh passing us at lunchtime. This was our opportunity to see one of the stars - the A4, A3, A2 Pacifics - which didn't normally venture as far north.

The A4s - we called them "streaks" - were our favourites: so sleek, absolutely beautiful even if we only saw them dirty in their black paint-job.


This is the Union of South Africa (60009) after renovation. Gorgeous, absolutely fabulous!

As these wonderful engines were removed and replaced by purely functional diesel trains an era, a golden era ended. I must admit that my judgment that this was a golden era may not be accepted by many who travelled under steam but as a kid these were the most amazing machines and, for me, nothing will ever replace them.

Another bonus of train travel was going over the Forth Bridge. I always got a huge buzz trundling noisily over the Forth safely guarded by this magnificent bridge.

Forth Rail Bridge

Again as the car took over we travelled less and less often by train. Until the Forth Road Bridge opened in 1964 the normal way of crossing the Forth by car was by ferry. Four ferries criss-crossed the Forth from North Queensferry to South Queensferry.


How small the traffic levels must have been for four such ferries to cope. Then on the 4th September 1964 the Forth Road Bridge opened, the ferries were no more. If you look closely you'll see a steam train on the bridge.

Moving back to the road I still have to cover buses. Lorries I'm going to miss because they weren't important enough in my life. Before buses I must touch upon horse-drawn vehicles. I am far too young (yes, too young!) to remember horse-drawn carriages. Only horse and carts were around in my early days. The one I remember most clearly was a fruit and veg cart although milk too was delivered by horse and cart. This was truly the fag-end of horses being used in transport.

Most of our town buses were double-deckers and their most obvious feature was the open platform at the back. I believe these open platforms remained on London buses long after they had disappeared from our streets. We thought nothing of running after a moving bus and launching ourselves at the platform with one hand outstretched to grab the pole nor of jumping off the platform as the bus slowed down. Today's lawyers would see spinning £ signs at the sight of what went on.

I do wonder who designed some buses, though: the upper deck of one bus had rows of bench seats, each bench seating 4 people. The designer obviously never travelled by bus: getting in and out of these seats was horrendous!

The opening of the Forth Road Bridge gave bus travel a massive boost because now direct buses to Edinburgh were easy and quick and train passenger numbers fell some more.

I feel there is so much more I could have written but haven't found in my memory banks. Any additional thoughts I'll put down in a round-up post at the end of the series. At the current rate of writing that should appear around 2011!


Previous posts in this series

No1 - Household Appliances

No2 - Shops and Shopping
No3 - More Shops and Shopping

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Almost Back


Just a few miles to walk before my return tomorrow - not that I've ever been very far away.  How could I have been when I'm here posting now!  Soon will be the time to take my boots off, patch up my blisters and get myself psyched up for another full re-entry into the world of blogging.


While away I had a look at old photos and I came across this one.




Don't you just love the coat?

Think the photo was taken by a street photographer in Oban in the early 1950s.


Who could have known that this little boy would morph into Calum? 

What an unkind outcome!!!!!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A Few More Days Walking ......


and then home.


I've been "walking" a week now with only a couple of stops to post and I know that, if I don't return soon, I'll be having a long break.  I may need a long break but I don't want that: I want to be back blogging.  Therefore, on Sunday, I hope to return to full blogging..


Nothing has changed so far during my short break and so I can only hope that I'll keep going from Sunday.


Please make a point of visiting on Sunday - best make it early evening UK time - and see the new, refreshed, raring-to-go same old, tired Calum.

Now isn't that a brill invitation?


Hope to see you on Sunday.