David Bowie : There’s a Starman waiting in the sky…

I don’t remember exactly when I became aware of David Bowie as a person, but I absolutely remember the first time I heard his voice.

My Dad was a huge Queen fan. The second Greatest Hits album was one of the first CDs that was purchased for our household collection, and it featured ‘Under Pressure’. I knew that there was a different voice in the mix, which didn’t feature in any of the other songs, and I had to know where it came from.

Dad put that familiar name and distinctive voice together for me.  And my eyes took quite a while to adjust to what I saw.

David Bowie, as well as being a talented singer, was an assault on the visual senses to a conventional teenage girl in the 90s. Being gay was still controversial and nowhere near as accepted in general society as it is today. Challenging fashion and gender norms was even rarer. My early to mid 90s were very conventional, I was raised on a cultural diet of teenage girl mags, top of the pops, boy bands and Tammy Girl fashion.

Suddenly seeing pictures of a British white man, caked in makeup, wearing leotards and jewellry, with dyed hair in lurid colours… my brain didn’t quite know how to deal with that. But during my subsequent exposure to my Dad’s collection of glam metal music including T-Rex, Kiss, the earlier parts of the Queen catalogue… I began to realise that doing things people regarded as ‘weird’ could be ‘cool’ if you carried it off with a sufficient amount of ‘I don’t give a shit and am so much better than you’.

Bowie was everything that was disregarded by my conventional surroundings. Tall, gangly, seemingly gender fluid, fashion challenging, avant garde, a poet, an actor, an artist in the biggest sense of the word. He treated his body, his mind and his existence as a canvas, and he was never frightened of changing direction. He was a revelation.

By the time I was getting to know him as an artist, he had moved away from the lurid colours and costumes and personas, and was balanced on such a sharp edge of chic that it was almost painful to anyone else to come near it.  He seemed to walk in black and white through the lurid coloured 90s and 00s and practically parted the seas. His cameos raised the cool value of anything he appeared in, the single line he contributed to the Perfect Day was just that – perfect. His live performances were spectacular and he never seemed to age a day.

He was the first artist who, deep down, I thought would live forever.

All of that ended this morning at 7.15am when my radio alarm clicked on and the first words I heard were ‘…by David Bowie, who we just heard this morning has died after a long battle with cancer.”

It felt like a reality had ended.

Or was it a dream?

I’m not sure, and it will take me a while to process it. I have always know that I will outlive my heroes, because many of them belong to the generation that preceded mine, and even the one above that. My parent’s tastes in music, TV and film were classic and timeless and I adopted them almost without question. I’ve inherited a lot of old heroes. Sometimes that frightens me, more than a little.

I knew that I was going to lose people. But I wasn’t prepared for one of them to be Bowie. Not with that impact. Not now, not so soon. Not ever, really.

I hadn’t figured out how important he was. How valuable he was. How influential it was. How unique he was. Hindsight is, cursedly, 20/20.

And now he’s gone.  And though I hadn’t expected to, I’ve spend much of this day feeling bereft. Lost. Like I lost something valuable before I’d had chance to figure out how much I wanted it to be part of my life.

Right now I am thankful for the legacy he left behind, which I can now explore at leisure, although with that bitter edge which comes from knowing it will never grow any larger.

As of today, there’s a starman waiting in the sky…

He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

 

 

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Year 2015: Let In The Sun by Take That

Well hello there…

I know I disappeared for several months, but I assure you all I am still alive. My family just had some major stuff to get through, including a severely injured cat, sick husband and job upheaval for myself. But – with the help of various doctors, managers, vets and medicines, we are all still here and looking forward to seeing the back of this year!

There were some good bits. Like going to see Queen, and Jools Holland. Like going back to LARP for the first time in over 5 years. Like getting into some new TV shows, most notably Downton Abbey, Sens8, Castle and Gok Wan’s How To Look Good Naked. Like getting shortlisted for the Jeremy Mogford Prize and publishing two more poems in collections from Lost Tower Publications. Like writing the first 20,000 words of a novel and also writing 71,000+ words of fan fiction to many reviews and general acclaim and support. Like seeing hope of a revival in British politics with the election of Jeremy Corbyn to becoming Labour leader. Like finally winning my PPI claim after 7 years of trying. Like running the first ever themed call for submissions on Project Shandy for mental health awareness week and receiving some stunning pieces of writing.

But on the whole, this year was not a success. Or at least, here at the end of all things, it doesn’t feel like one. Too many heroes died, including (but not limited to) Christopher Lee, Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy. Too many horrors dominated the news, such as the attacks on Paris and the flooding in the North of England (not to mention the election of a Tory majority government…) Too many things conspired against me, like the threat of redundancy and a stupid NHS professional who would not listen to my wishes/reasons regarding my health care choices.

This year saw concern for my own health (although I now have a therapist and some working drugs again), worry over my beloved husband (who has now accessed the specialist help he needs to work on improving his mental health) and worry about my darling pet cat (she’s fine, although three legged these days). It felt like the reasons to worry never let up, throughout the good times and victories, and that has left this year with something of a sour taste overall.

I am hopeful that things will improve from this point forwards.

As is the case every year, I’ve spent the last few weeks mulling over my choice for Song Of The Year 2016, and there were several strong contenders. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark‘ had already been highlighted as my ‘song of the week’ earlier this year. Rachel Platten’s ‘My Fight Song‘ saw me through some rough times.  I was even tempted by The 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Goin On‘ after a particularly poignant scene in Sens8.

But eventually, it all came back to me and my boys – good old Take That.

I first heard ‘Let In The Sun’ on the radio when I was driving back from… I don’t know, somewhere. My working area has been so large this year I’ve lost track. I had to pull off the road and cry. Things had been starting to go downhill and this song just managed to capture everything, how it felt, how things were slipping away and how I felt like I was losing sight of the things that were most important to me.

“You found yourself alone in a room
Total devastation
In the darkness you must enter the code
Crack the combination all on your own”

That was around the time I finally admitted I was losing track of my life and I wasn’t coping very well with everything that was going on. It was time to go back down to the core, admit to my doctor that I needed some help and support and start digging my heels in until I got some.

“Pick yourself up and search for the light
Hungry for a new start
It’s your chance now to stand up and fight
Take the next step now a day at a time”

I have been down this road through the National Health Service a few times now. I pity anyone who has to navigate it for the first time on their own without experienced guidance. It’s not easy to articulate what you need/want in a way that will hit the right notes and get results in this system.

However, by the end of this year, I feel like we’re getting somewhere now. Not just stuck in the same old spiral of ‘try this… try it again… try it for a bit longer…’ No, you know what? Can we skip the basics and assume that we have tried, and indeed that we are persevering, with all the level 1 steps and methods? It’s time to bring out some big guns and not just hope that this goes away.

“Good to see you with your feet on the track
Waiting for a restart
Leaving all that once what was holding you back
Want you to see the sun rise as fast as you can”

So come on then 2016. What you got for us? I won’t say it can’t be worse than 2015, because I know it could be. But if you even TRY that 2016, I am going to shake you by the neck. Play nice now. Let’s see how this new and clean slate pans out.

It’s time to Let In The Sun. And here is this year’s Song Of The Year 2015.

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week: The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

Welcome back everyone. As you’ve probably noticed, Project Shandy has been mighty quiet lately. Truth be told, there’s been an explosion of interest in my tutoring business so I’ve had to neglect my poor old website and it’s likely to be quiet for a while in terms of my own content. We’re still open for submissions though, if you’ve got anything you’d like to send in.

I have been stressing about getting this place up and running again, not least because I’ve missed writing the song of the week post, but I have been too busy even for music recently. A lot of my collection is feeling old and tired and I need to broaden my tastes and let some new (and older) stuff in to refresh my palette.

This song caught me by surprise on the way home from a tutoring session though and gave me a wise lesson as well as a good song for ‘song of the week’. Kenny Rogers’ lovely little story song ‘The Gambler’. I love country music, I was quite into it when I was a teenager, I love the stories that they tell and the lessons they hold. Perhaps it’s time for me to go back to that genre for a bit.

Life is rushing ahead at full steam at the moment and it’s going to be an insanely busy summer. I might not have time to stop and catch my breath for a bit. But, sometimes, that’s what life is and I’ve been craving a bit more action for a while. The things is, there’s no use worrying about it. You just have to go with it, and play the game.

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die
In your sleep”

So for the next while, I might just be sitting at the table and not concentrating on keeping score. I will be popping in now and then, but it might be a bit more sporadic!

 

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week: I Know Where I’ve Been

It’s been a bit of a big week in the news hasn’t it.

It’s been a very small week over in Shandy Land, not a lot happening at all. So for this week, just this week, I’ve decided to throw out ‘Song Of The Week’ to international news and have decided upon ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’.

Large strides have been made towards a world of true equality this week. But we are not at the end of the road. There is a long way to go. And we should remember where we came from. I don’t say this as someone who is part of the LGBT community, but someone who is human, and who wants to see all people in this world treated equally, with love and respect, honour and integrity. We are not there yet. But I am sure we will get there if we keep walking. And we ALL must keep walking. Because to sit still – well now, that would be a sin.

For this post, I’ve decided to share Glee’s version of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. Because the message of support for all of the LGBT* community is so strong and so beautiful, and it kinda sums up why I felt so drawn to this song this week in the first place. A choir of trans* individuals come together to sing this song for another trans* person who is just starting out their life as a man.

“There’s a road we must travel
There’s a promise we must make
Oh, but the riches, the riches will be plenty
Worth the risks and the chances that we take

There’s a dream, yeah, in the future
There’s a struggle that we have yet to win
Use that pride in our hearts to lift us up to tomorrow
‘Cause just to sit still would be a sin

I know it, I know it, I know where I’m going
Lord knows I know where I’ve been
Oh, when we win, I’ll give thanks to my God
‘Cause I know where I’ve been”

 

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week: Englishman in New York by Sting

 

I was watching Kingsman with my husband this week (very entertaining little film by the way, give it a whirl some time). And there was a quote that Colin Firth said which made me think about this song, which is now song of the week: Englishman In New York by Sting. The quote which took me back to this song was this:

‘Manners Maketh Man’

I hadn’t thought about that quote in years. I used to play the song a lot when I was growing up, especially when I was in high school. My school years weren’t as bad as those endured by some people I’ve known, but they had their dark spots. Sting’s song was a story about someone different. Someone who didn’t fit in, who didn’t mesh with the patterns around them. Someone who stuck out like a sore thumb, but refused to change.

I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on the side
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I’m an Englishman in New York

Like any young girl chronically allergic to fashion, awkward around the opposite sex, achieving good marks in school and with ambitions to leave her home town, I was given a rough time. I was seen as posh because I didn’t speak with a local accent. A swot because I got good marks. A snob because I didn’t enjoy the same things as them. I wasn’t. I was just different. But that was enough of a crime in and of itself at the age of thirteen.

I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York
I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York

I felt like a legal alien growing up. Especially in my teens. I knew I was a complete fish out of water, I knew I didn’t belong where I was but had no idea where on earth I was actually meant to be. I knew that the way I was treated wasn’t fair. But I also knew that I wasn’t prepared to compromise myself to be treated differently. And my biggest aim in life, beyond all others, was to not be life them. To not become like the people who had done this to me.

When you are being bullied, ridiculed, made to look small or feel inadequate, there is something important to remember. It is nothing to do with you. You can change your hairstyle, makeup, clothing and even to a certain extent, your body shape. You can mask your interests, deny your passions and pretend to be something other than yourself. Being who you are is the one thing you have complete and utter control over. How you behave in response to others is something you have the final say in. It’s a gift.

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night a candle’s brighter than the sun

If someone has decided to make you a target, there is nothing you can do to mask yourself. I know that everyone who has been, or is being, bullied wants to believe that making some sort of change will rescue them. I did, for a while, and then I realised that there was nothing I could do that would change who I was. No matter what I wore, listened to, watched or liked, I was different on the inside. Because I wasn’t happy where I was. And I knew that I wasn’t willing to settle for being unhappy for the rest of my life. But what I did decide in all of that was that I would not make anyone else feel that bad on my account. Even if I was ever given the opportunity for revenge, I vowed I wouldn’t take it. Because then they really would win. They would have changed me into being someone like them.

If “manners maketh man” as someone said
Then he’s the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

This was the verse that got me thought a lot of hard times. Being a ‘man’ for me means something other than gender. I grew up reading ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling, which was written on the wall of my English teacher’s wall. I loved reading it because it was full of strong advice on how to be a strong person and handle the myriad shite that life throws at you. And never, ever be tempted to become one of them.

Being a ‘man’ to me was about becoming the type of person who would handle that sort of thing with grace and style. Becoming someone who might well endure this treatment but would never ever dish it out. As Kipling said:

“If you can wait and not be tired by waiting Or being lied about don’t deal in lies Or being hated, don’t give way to hating And yet don’t look too good, not talk to wise”

I was suffering ignorance in my teens, and again in my twenties. I did my best to take it with a smile, at least in public. And never, ever, ever dish it out in return. No matter how much you may want to, how much you think they deserve it, or how satisfying it would feel. You just don’t. Because you’re better than that.

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make you feel that you have actually made progress and this was a good reminder to me today. I am not living in fear of ignorance any more. That’s something positive that I need to work harder to remember when I am enduring difficult times. I am no longer a fish out of water. I found the place where I belong. And my life does not revolve around the people who I had to endure in my earlier life. I am no longer an Englishman in New York, no longer a legal alien. I am free.

If “manners maketh man” as someone said
Then he’s the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week: Moon River, sung by Audrey Hepburn

I hate this bit of starting a new job. The new job itself is great, but that big red circle around pay day seems to be further away every time I look at it, when I know factually that it’s getting closer. I’m wishing I had a bit of spare cash to spoil myself, and combined with this I am beset with a dose of wanderlust. I might seem quite domestic on the outside. Nice settled life, good career, lovely husband, pets, etc, but deep down there is a bit of Holly Golightly in me.

Or at least, I wish there was.

 

This besetment of wanderlust could not really have happened at a worse time. This is the time when I need to settle down, take my self and my life in hand and get cracking with the Serious Grown Up aspects of life.  But I find myself wanting to pack the car and take off. Go visit old friends, take road trips across the country, see places I haven’t seen for a long time, go hunting for new places. Perhaps this is partly due to the weather (which has been unusually gorgeous and summery), and partly due to me getting a bit hormonal (I’ve not had proper PMS for a while and now I’m on the mood-swing rollercoaster), but it’s an annoying sensation.

Perhaps I’m just feeling a bit Holly Golightly-ish at the moment in more ways than one, and it’s just a bit of the blues. Mixed with the mean reds.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

I like my life here, I love my husband, my job (at last), my cats, my friends, my learners, my little routines, but every now and then I get beset by flashes of boredom and the longing to be off somewhere else, and the feeling that I’m stuck where I am and I don’t want to be stuck, because what it I am stuck and I don’t like it?

(Definitely the mean reds, now I think about it.

Definitely.)

Now, yes, I can plan ahead, but I have planned ahead a lot and I want to go do something NOW and find myself with neither the time nor money to do it. I think another part of the problem is that my current projects aren’t holding my attention. Writing ‘Corinbach’ has ground to a halt (as have all my articles, poetry, blog posts…), Tory Watch has been neglected (and it shouldn’t be, this shit is important, especially now the hype is dying down), my routine of going to the gym/swimming is (forgive the expression) floundering and I find myself growing bored of the insides of my own head. I know that a burst of difference, fresh ideas and new conversations, inspirations and so forth would do all of those things the world of good, but it’s all just tantalisingly out of reach.

I’m trying. I’ve picked a new TV series to watch, I’m more willing to watch new films with hubby in the evening and I am even trying to pick up and read new books (at the behest of one of my teen learners, I just finished ‘Looking for Alaska’ and ‘Papertowns’ by John Green). And I know that eventually I will get to the point where I have both time and money again and I’ll get myself back onto an even keel and be able to rush off and have some impromptu adventures as well as my planned ones. But right now I am stuck in a mental rut and it is deeply uncomfortable down here.

It could be worse though. I could be happy in the rut. And I hate to think I’d ever turn into that sort of person. Far better to be woken up and shaken up by a dose of the blues and the mean reds, and reminded that you’re still alive and you want to get out and live.

So here’s a lovely version of Moon River, to remind us all that adventure is waiting for all of us, including me, and I will be off to see the world in no time at all.

“Moon River”
Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting, round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after that same rainbow’s end, waiting, round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week: Part Of Me by Katy Perry

Welcome to a brand new week, and a brand new Song Of The Week: Part of Me by Katy Perry

This week just gone has been a strange one for me – lots happening, lots going on, big changes and a lot of small changes too, which have added up to some serious soul searching.

I feel like I have been wandering around in a fog for the last few months. In fact, the last year has been harder than I realised. I feel a little like I’ve lurched from one disaster to the next and managed to just about avoid falling over the rail each time. This process has left me feeling exhausted.

Days like this I want to drive away
Pack my bags and watch your shadow fade
 You chewed me up and spit me out
Like I was poison in your mouth
You took my light, you drained me down
But that was then and this is now
Now look at me 

Not just physically exhausted, but mentally. Wrung out. Chewed up. I had lost a lot of my will power, a lot of my va-va-voom, my drive and consistency and for the last month in particular, I feel like I’ve been floundering. Looking back to twelve months ago, it’s hard to see where any progress has been made. My head has felt full of white noise and cotton wool, and all the things I was so set on last year, like smartening up my dress sense, keeping my manicure up to date, my academic reading, my writing and publication efforts and my ability to engage in new things and enjoy new things have largely falling into ditches along the way.

I just wanna throw my phone away
Find out who is really there for me
You ripped me off, your love was cheap
Was always tearing at the seams
I fell deep, you let me down
But that was then and this is now
Now look at me

I have invested a lot of effort into my career, and while the last two steps forward have been steps up, I have still been left drained by the process. Now though, I feel like I’m taking a step in the right direction. I very much enjoyed my induction with my new employer and enjoyed seeing the plan for the team’s development set out – I have had these wishes and plans in my own head for upwards of two years, and it was good to find a professional organisation who actually agree with my own thoughts and plans.

It’s amazing how feeling isolated in your beliefs can make you feel so tired and then, out of the blue, finding a whole company – one of the most successful in their business sector, who agree with me, it was the absolute tonic. The best kind.

It cleared a massive amount of crap from my head and by the time I got home, I was feeling vastly better. Celebrating my birthday in good company with dear friends and my lovely husband, having had the time to put myself in order (bath, manicure, ironed clothes, nice makeup), was a beautiful reminder of all that is good in my life, and in me, in general.

Sat with my husband last night, I asked if he was in the mood to watch something (a movie, few eps from a TV show, whatever) and after a few moments we realised that we were both ready for something new. Something that would make us think, that would wake up our brains and engage us. For the last few weeks, all we’ve done of an evening is watch Castle. Which is great – funny, engaging, with cute characters, and nice geeky references. But also formulaic, and comforting, and after a while a little predictable and disengaging. Last night, for the first time in a while, I was ready to think. And that’s a nice feeling to come back to after lazing around in the fog.

I feel like I am taking account of all the different parts of me. And I am delighted to find that they are there, having just been asleep, and they are all ready to wake up.

This week’s song of the week captures some of the energy behind this feeling. It was my Song Of The Year a few years ago, at the end of 2012, and where I am right now is an echo of that sensation. The last month has been difficult and extremely stressful, but I have gotten through it, and this has made me feel a lot stronger.

Now look at me I’m sparkling
A firework, a dancing flame
You won’t ever put me out again
I’m glowin’, oh, whoa

I’m not out of the woods yet, but I can see the tree line for the first time in ages and I actually care enough to look at the details of the map now.

This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw your sticks and your stones,
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me

 

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week: Best Day Of My Life by American Authors

We took a week off from Song Of The Week last week, but we’re back with a new one for the start of a new month – Best Day Of My Life by American Authors.

A lot of new things are getting started today, including me starting a new job – Project Shandy is likely to be quiet for a little while, as I am down in the English midlands doing my first week’s induction/training for the new position.

Moving on to new things is something that I find relatively easy, although sadly that’s because I have had a lot of practice. The way education funding works in the UK means that contracts get changed around a lot and companies rise and fall in relatively short order. I’ve worked for small firms, and for big firms that have education as a side line. I hope that this job will be different – a massive national company who have all of their eggs in the education basket and they have been doing excellently in this business for a long time. They are setting up a new initiative for teaching maths and English to adults across the country and I am really excited to be a part of this new project.

It was difficult to find a song to fit this week, which is a funny mix of apprehension, nerves, not wanting to be away from home and yet also excitement, feeling optimistic and looking forward to getting stuck into a new challenge.

And then it hit me.

This could be the best day of my life. So let’s assume that it’s going to be. And go forward with heads up in hope.

I like this song, it’s brimful of energy and a catchy beat. I really hope that this gets me through this week.

“Best Day Of My Life”

I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
I stretched my hands out to the sky
We danced with monsters through the nightI’m never gonna look back
Whoa, I’m never gonna give it up
No, please don’t wake me now
This is gonna be the best day of my life
This is gonna be the best day of my life

I howled at the moon with friends
And then the sun came crashing in
But all the possibilities
No limits just epiphanies

I’m never gonna look back
Whoa, I’m never gonna give it up
No, just don’t wake me now
This is gonna be the best day of my life
This is gonna be the best day of my life

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

Song Of The Week for Mental Health Awareness Week: The Living Years

So this is the end of Project Shandy’s first submissions call for Mental Health Awareness Week.

I really wanted to wind things up, as is always the case with me, with a song. But my stars and garters, this has been a really difficult one to find, in terms of the right song with the right message. This week has been an emotional rollercoaster, reading and sharing the pieces which have been submitted for Mental Health Awareness Week. People from all walks of life, dealing with all kinds of challenges, waging wars inside our own heads.

This call for submissions will be opened annually from now on. I hope that it continues to grow year on year. And between those times I promise to keep highlighting these issues, talking about them, giving a platform to other people to discuss their own experiences. Because we must keep moving forward. This is plan A, because there is no plan B. We must do more than survive, we must live.

But while we keep moving forward, we must remember where we have come from. We must acknowledge the darkness that we have walked through, and in some cases that we are still walking through.

To everyone who took part in this week’s awareness raising efforts, whether you were a writer, contributor, commenter, sharer or a reader – keep going and keep doing what it is you are doing. To the people who are battling mental illness and who are supporting others in their own wars against mental health conditions –  Keep walking. Keep talking. Keep on sharing your experiences. Keep fighting.

Above all – Keep Living.

Every day that you endure this is a victory in your own battle for mental health, and a victory in the war against these illnesses. United, we are an army. And an army’s first duty is to survive.

 

The Song Of The Week to end Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘The Living Years’ by Mike and the Mechanics. It isn’t specifically about mental health, but it is about the difficulties of communication, about how hard it is to make yourself heard and get your points across. This song reminds me of the importance of listening as well as talking, and the importance of not giving up and not giving in. I hope that you enjoy listening to it as much as I do.

“So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different date
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
You may just be O.K.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye”

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Song Of The Week: Hounds That Wait Outside Your Door by Spirit Of The West

This week’s Song Of The Week was an obvious choice for me from the moment I heard the UK Election result: The Hounds That Wait Outside Your Door by Spirit Of The West. We are posting one day early, as tomorrow is the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week. If you still want to submit to that call, you have until Midnight tonight.

This band were introduced to me by my husband, they’ve not really had any success in the UK, but I love them regardless. For their harmonies, the raw energy of their performances and the bite and satisfying political edge to many of their lyrics. This song comes from my favourite of their albums – ironically titled ‘Labour Day’.

So. The Tories are in, and this time they don’t gave the Liberal Democrats hanging off their coat tails.

The best summing up of this state of affairs was covered by this tweet:


As A GoT fan, I howled with laughter, and later kicked myself for not getting there first when my good friend Jo made the obvious joke: Winter Is Coming. It’s possibly the only joke in the whole situation I have been able to find this weekend.

I met a young man this week who thought that things were bad enough under the Labour Government. Oh my sweet summer child, you have no idea what is coming for you. The Tories have one God, and it is money. And while that God favours them, they will show no compassion or understanding to those weaker or less fortunate, and will extend no hand of friendship to those who are in need. They will, given free reign, systematically dismantle the UK’s welfare state and remove us from the influence of the higher powers of the European Court, in much the same way that a dictatorship will kick the press out before going to work on its subjects. If you are not a rich and powerful person who has inherited both your wealth and power, hold tight to your seats my friends. We are in for a bumpy ride.

For the next five years, should any of us hit hard times, we cannot depend on our government to look after us. In much the same way as a goldfish doesn’t think twice about breathing under water, they will look at us with confusion and disgust when we start drowning. The only way forward in this matter is to stick together as communities. To be kind to each other, to take care of each other, to watch out for our weak and extend our help to those who need it. Nobody else is coming to pick us up when we fall. We have, as a country, elected a government with a mandate for self interest. Not our interests, let alone our best interests. We were warned, and we did not listen.

There’s a siren ringing loud
A call of distress
And it’s winding through these streets
Making all you people deaf
But I think you’re hearing fine
Just choosing to ignore
The hounds that wait outside your door
I think you’re keeping sane
By not keeping score
Of the hounds that wait outside your door

We are going to have to take care of each other. Because winter is indeed coming, and we may need to huddle together for warmth. It is up to us to focus on each other, to see each other’s common humanity and see past the labels that our government will be so keen to foist upon us. Watch out for the divide and conquer. It’s how they keep their influence – they will try to make us afraid of each other. We must not let this happen.

This is a fragile situation
An island made of glass
This is an unstable structure
A structure built on class
And I think you know full well
Just choosing to ignore
the hounds that wait outside your door
And I don’t want a stock
In what the future has in store
It’s the hounds that wait outside your door

This song was written and recorded after Margaret Thatcher’s Tory party won their third consecutive election in 1987. Her victory was a shock then, just as Cameron’s is a shock now. But it was the vote that put her there, just as the vote has put Cameron there. We are sitting at the entrance to a hell of our collective making.

Well, she’s back in the chair again
I don’t know who put her there
It seems a silent majority spoke
To sway the Tory vote
The walls are tumbling down
And Madam has the floor
And the hounds that wait outside your door
The apple of your eye
Has gone rotten to the core
Like the hounds that wait outside your door

The one thing we cannot afford to be, or to become, over the next five years is complacent. Please, please people, do not bury your heads in the sand and ignore what’s about to go down. Keep speaking out, speaking up, making your voice heard. We may have handed these monsters the keys to our government, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put them on a leash. Keep writing to your MPs, remind them who they work for. We put them where they are, yes, but we can take all of that away too.

Ah but you have the answer
For Brittania’s sinking ship
You need a nice cup of tea
And a stiff upper lip
Oooh, Blighty’s goin’ down
And still you’re asking for more
Of the hounds that wait outside your door
God save the Queen
And let the home fires roar
Above the hounds that wait outside your door

We have hounds outside the door, make no mistake about it. And they are howling. But Dire Wolves can be tamed, if we put our hearts and minds and backbones into it.

Be good to each other. Be excellent to each other. Right now, and for the next five years, we are all we have.

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