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 ....

Friday, 17 October 2008

CAMHS: Anything But!

Recently, courtesy of mentalnurse, I have posted twice about Dr Cretin (1 and 2)  who worked in CAMHS - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. 

CAMHS: a most inappropriate sounding acronym.  My experiences of our local CMHS were anything but calming. 


Today I want to tell you only about our first contact with CAMHS and to contrast our experience with that of our first contact with the community paediatrician.

Several years ago, we were referred to CAMHS for reasons which are irrelevant to our story and we turned up - the whole family.  We were met by a consultant child psychiatrist and a community mental health worker.  Immediately Mrs Carr and I were uncomfortable.  We were asked about the children and their development and interactions, and then followed questioning of Mrs Carr and me about adult personal issues with the children present.  The children were questioned in front of us. 

We knew this was wrong but, for some reason, neither of us was able to say that we should be not be talking in front of the children and vice versa.  Eventually after about 90mins this torture finished.

I wrote to the consultant pointing out our discomfort and suggesting that, in future, we should have time to talk separate from the children.  I didn't receive a reply.

Some time later I was speaking to the community mental health worker and I mentioned our first interview and my view that, in general, families should be offered the opportunity to talk separately to the clinicians.

"Oh, we don't do that. If the parents ask then we'll do it."

How thoughtless, how disrespectful.  They bring families, probably nervous, into their environment and fire away at the questions putting the entire onus on the family to ask to change the setting.

This is not a major failing but it is so unnecessary and is indicative of what is likely to follow.  In our case what followed was much worse than we could have imagined but this must remain private.


A few years later one child was referred to a community paediatrician and Mrs Carr, I and child turned up but this time determined to mention, at the beginning, about talking separately.  Our concerns were unnecessary.  We met two clinicians and they made the point in their introduction that we and child would have the opportunity to talk privately. 

What a difference this made!

And it continued.  They listened. They acknowledged.  They reinforced.  They respected. 


Two departments  - only doors apart - but a million miles apart in attitude. 

Thank you, community paediatrics.  Top class!

CAMHS, you have so far to go, so many lessons to learn.

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.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Top Bank Role?

I hope I'm in time. 

I'm just finishing off my CV. 

If I say it myself, "It's quite impressive!"  Look here's a wee snippet:


30 years of financial management (1968 - 1998)

10 years of financial mismanagement (1998 - 2008)

Made crucial sub-prime decisions (1998 - 2008)

Living beyond means - very experienced (1999 - 2008)

Insufficient savings  - very experienced (2002 - 2008)

Recovery plans - experienced  (2000 - 2008)

Failed recovery plans - experienced (2001 - 2008)

No government financial support - experienced (1968 - 2008)

40 years with a RBS account (1968 - 2008)

I must be on the shortlist for Sir Fred Goodwin's position - possibly former position now - at the Royal Bank of Scotland!

Who could possibly be better qualified?


I'll just send this off to Gordon Brown.  With these qualifications and as a fellow Fifer I must be a shoo-in.


I'll let you know how I get on.  Wish me luck.


Update 1: (13.50)

Just had an email from GB.  God, he's quick getting back to me.

It's looking good.  He said that he's determined to keep the job in Scottish hands but I have to be careful not to let on because it would be politically explosive if this got out. I'll be so careful to keep this to myself.  No probs, Gord.

Apparently I'm not quite as well qualified as some but being Scottish and a Fifer as well puts me right at the front.

I've to pop over to North Queensferry to meet him and Sarah.  Said he'd be at home tonight.  Fish supper OK?  OK!  I'd eat a scabby horse if it meant getting this job.  8pm.  Be discreet, Calum. 

Discreet, Gordon.  I'll be as quiet as a mouse!  You can trust me.


Can you believe it?  Me at Gord's TONIGHT.  Don't tell anyone will you?


I'll keep you posted.


Update 2: (14.40)

Another email!  Bad news!

Remember, he said, wear your Rovers' scarf.  That's it !  No chance now!  Wear a Raith Rovers scarf!  Wear the scarf of our local rivals!  I can't.  It would scorch my skin.  I could never swap my Pars scarf for the Rovers!  Never!  Shit!

But wait!  There is a chance.  You know those worries about his sight.  If I wear my black and white Pars scarf  - the one with no writing on it  - he'll probably see it as dark blue and white.  I might get away with this, do you think?

Brill!   Fish supper at Gord's and then top job here I come!


Update 3: (20.20)

Didn't even get across the door.  I could smell the fish suppers too!  You're a bloody Pars fan!  Then a great clunking fist knocked me backwards. "Fuck off to Dunfermline!"

"Broon, ya bastard! Better not take your jacket off cos every peg is fucking shoogily.  Broon yerra loser!"

Well, I'm back home now.  Back to my normal humdrum life. I could have gone that job but now that I'm out of the running they've given it to someone from British Land.

Could have been me.  If only ...... I could have worn a Rovers scarf.

If only .........

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]

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Dr Cretin Has a Big Family - Part 2


Yesterday , you'll remember I mentioned the case of a vulnerable youth who was treated with sheer incompetence by a consultant psychiatrist.

I wrote:

"If a doctor is so uncaring or so lacking in people skills one wonders whether he is even safe to practice."

There is more to this story.  The youth's mother complained about the psychiatrist and this is what happened.  Again thanks are due to Zarathustra at who posted again.  A large extract is shown below:

"..... one side-topic that’s been raised in the comments thread is the use of psychopathology as a way of dismissing complaints.

Remember this case? The emo kid who came to CAMHS and found himself being hectored by a consultant psychiatrist, accused of being in a cult and having his depression and self-harm dismissed as a fashion trend. Funnily enough, his mother made a complaint against the psychiatrist.

The case was discussed with another psychiatrist in CAMHS, who had not met the patient or his family. Nor had he read the notes. His response to the complaint?

    “I guarantee you that this boy has an unstable personality disorder, and I’d be willing to bet that the mother has an unstable personality disorder too.”

Psychopathology shouldn’t be used to ignore or dismiss a complaint, especially when that complaint is actually well-founded. Unfortunately, it can and does happen, and when it does, it stinks."


Hadn't seen the family; hadn't read the notes but yet he'd diagnosed both the mother and her son.   

Was he interested in the truth?  NO!

Was he interested in the youth's health?  NO!

What confidence could one have that he would display any professionalism in his normal psychiatric role?  NONE!

What confidence can one have in the complaints ' procedure if one is dismissed as rudely as this?  NONE!

[Deb has already posted about the NHS complaints system.]

Zarathustra is right.  This stinks but he doesn't go far enough.  This other psychiatrist has acted with such arrogance and prejudice that one should consider his fitness to practice. 

Here we have two psychiatrists in one department acting in most appalling ways.  Two Dr Cretins in one department!  How many Dr Cretins must there be through out the Health Service?  Doctors, whose function is to treat the ill, have not shown any compassion, care, respect, understanding, empathy but only incompetence, arrogance and prejudice which is likely, in many cases, to lead to a worsening of any condition.

These Dr Cretins are not fit to be doctors.

Unfortunately, from what I have read recently, many doctors are ready to blame errors on the system, management, targets but are reluctant to blame their colleagues.  This must change.

I have written elsewhere that I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with doctors who are fighting against the victimisation of doctors by the medical hierarchy and I will continue to do so. 

BUT I will stand against any doctor who behaves like these Dr Cretins or who defends these Dr Cretins.  The time has come for the main body of doctors to stand beside patients and demand that their failing colleagues be removed from front-line medicine. 

The health of patients is much much more important than the rigid support of doctors by their peers.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dr Cretin Has a Big Family


This new dovey is courtesy of Deb






Previously I have posted about the cold, callous, calculating consultant psychotherapist who psychologically abused Mrs Carr (here and here).  I came across another example of sheer incompetence in dealing with a vulnerable youth and I have copied the entire post not because the psychiatrist's behaviour is particularly extreme but because his failing is so obvious and so basic.  If a doctor is so uncaring or so lacking in people skills one wonders whether he is even safe to practice.  I suspect that what follows happens over and over again throughout the UK.  Certainly I have seen quite a few examples of this crass insensitivity.

"More on Emo  by Zarathustra

Following on from my earlier post about emo, I think I’ve give a real-world clinical example, dealing with a self-harming emo kid.

A quick caveat before I do. Teenage self-harming is not an “emo thing”. We see plenty of cutters in CAMHS, and the bulk of them are not emos. Chavs cut themselves too. In fact, some kids cut themselves despite not being part of any fashion clique at all. It’s almost as if self-harm were a mental health issue rather than a fashion trend. Strange, that.

Anyway, let’s bring in our emo. He’s 15 years old, and in honour of My Chemical Romance, we’ll call him Gerard.

I’ve been doing a bit of individual counselling and CBT with Gerard following his referral to our service due to low mood, sleep problems and self-cutting - usually fairly superficial razor cuts on the legs and arms. He has suicidal thoughts, but doesn’t think he’ll act on them. He’s a pleasant, intelligent lad, and we get on pretty well during our sessions together. As a result we often wind up having a chat about music or art or whatever while doing the therapy.

A bit of background for you. Gerard’s early childhood was marked by marital breakdown and his witnessing of physical abuse by his now-estranged father against his mother. At the age of 11, Gerard was diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder - poorly developed motor coordination. As with a lot of kids with DCD, his self-esteem plummetted and he became a target for bullying. Diagnosis at least meant he stopped getting berated as “bone idle” by his teachers for becoming frustrated with trying to write legibly, then giving up and staring out of the window in a daydream. It didn’t stop the other kids from taunting him for attempting to kick a ball on the football field and seeing it go in every direction except at the goal.

The reason I give the above bit of life history is to point out that Gerard did not become depressed as a “fashion trend”. The reasons can be found in his early life and upbringing.

Anyway, let’s cut back to the present, and Gerard is now a 15 year old emo. He’s got the spiky haircut with the fringe that looks a bit like Hitler. He’s got the My Chemical Romance hoodie. He’s got the black painted fingernails. He chats to other emos on Myspace and meets up with them at gigs, or just to hang around in a bedroom or in the park. He vastly prefers their company to the “ignorant, racist” kids in his class. Sometimes they get pissed on cider or smoke a bit of weed. This has led to a couple of occasions where, being a 15 year old who hasn’t yet mastered the art of pacing himself, Gerard has wound up collapsing drunk.

I’ve explored in sessions what Gerard feels he gets out of being an emo. His answers: a sense of identity, a feeling of mutual understanding with others, being accepted and valued in a way that he isn’t by the bullies at school who push his head down the toilet. All of which are things that have therapeutic value. The fact that he does booze and drugs with them isn’t so therapeutic, but underage drinking was certainly not invented by emo.

The consultant psychiatrist decides he’d like to review my progress. Given the high professional esteem with which I hold my consultant, we’ll call him Dr Cretin.

Dr Cretin is…shall we say…a little old-fashioned. Therefore I had a feeling things weren’t go to go well when Gerard turned up to the appointment wearing eyeliner.

Dr Cretin looks at him disapprovingly. “So….this emo cult that you’re involved in. Is that why you started cutting yourself?”

Emo cult? Oh Christ, please don’t tell me Dr Cretin read that bloody Daily Mail article.

Gerard looks at him blankly, “Er, no. I just started doing it because it made me feel calmer and stopped me from getting angry.”

“Really?” mutters Dr Cretin, “Anyway, you also need to keep away from alcohol. You’re probably doing more damage to yourself with that than you are by making a few cuts on your arms.”

“I just have a few drinks with my friends…” mumbles Gerard.

“Well then, you need to change your friends, don’t you? If you’re in with a crowd that’s getting drunk and using drugs, you need to move to a different crowd.”

Gerard looks like he’s trying to implode into his chair.

“So, then,” continues Dr Cretin, “Do you want some medication? Some antidepressants?”


“Very well, I’m going to prescribe you some fluoxetine. But it’s not going to do much good unless you cut out the drinking. Medication alone isn’t going to make the change. You’ve got to make the change yourself, young man. You’ve got to want to change.”

Brilliant move there from Dr Cretin, because getting 15 year olds to change by giving them a hectoring sermon has such a track record of success, doesn’t it?

He then makes the only helpful decision of the session by leaving the room while he goes to write out the prescription. By this point Gerard looks like he’s about to cry. Which is unsurprising, since he’s just been told his personal identity is a cult and he should get rid of all his friends. I decide to take the time alone to chat more with him about his interests so as to put him a bit more at ease. We gossip about bands and the quality of the local gig venues.

Dr Cretin eventually returns with the prescription and arranges for a review in 6 weeks. I also arrange to see Gerard myself for the following week. Partly to monitor medication compliance but mainly to make sure he hasn’t been completely scared off.

I finish off by saying, “So, you’ll be seeing me regularly for the talking therapies, and Dr Cretin occasionally to review the meds.” Hopefully he’ll realise that this is my coded way of saying, “Don’t worry, you won’t have to speak to him very often.”

I mean, honestly. You’d think that to be a consultant psychiatrist you’d consider it a priority to work on your people skills. (No disrespect to The Shrink or Cockroach Catcher, both of whom I’m sure are charm personified.)"


Does this seem familiar?  YES!

Simple people skills missing and a life is at risk. 

There must be cretins throughout the entire NHS. 

There are cretins throughout the entire NHS.

We should stop them practicing because they are dangerous!

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

End of My Walk?

For the moment, at least, I've stopped walking but .....  I know, from experience, that there will be more walks or runs or disappearances.  That's where and how I am.

I have far too much to do or cope with in my real life and the NHS, through its lack of treatment of Mrs Carr, has added immeasurably to our difficulties.  So much to do that I shouldn't be blogging:  I can't afford the time.    I should use the time to sleep or work but .....

..... I can't afford not to blog.  I love blogging.  After a hard day (or an easy day if I get one) I love to sit at my pc, relax, write and read. 

The difficulties arise when I spend too much time blogging.  I need to leave the pc alone totally whilst working rather than being addicted to the latest post around or to my slowly changing stats.

Eventually I find that I need to leave for a period to get myself grounded.  Without doubt I will leave again sometime ..... sooner or later.  I don't know when.


Tomorrow - possibly later today - my first real post appears Part 4 of my Childhood Reminiscences series - transport and travel.  I know it's appearing because I have almost written the post already.  For those who haven't read the earlier posts.  They can be found here:

Childhood Reminiscences No.1 - Household Appliances
Childhood Reminiscences No2 - Shops and Shopping
Childhood Reminiscences No3 - More Shops and Shopping

Finally thanks to all who kept in touch during my retreat.

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.