Brits & Refugees Abroad

I am currently in a hotel in Bitez, a small town just outside of Bodrum in Turkey.

I am staying at a lovely hotel called the Orion, it’s very small and it has a mix of Brit holiday makers and Syrian and Iraqi escape makers – the atmosphere is familial with an undertone of plotting. It very much reminds me of Rick’s cafe in Casablanca – a halfway point where you sit and plot your next move. I know my next move, a few days lying in the sun, with a bit of eating, reading, drinking and swimming in between.

The coach will come and get the holiday makers and we will return to the life we came on holiday to get away from.

The rest are trying to escape to the life we’re trying to escape from.

We seek to protect and preserve our land and way of life as though ours is of the most high. We have benefits and NHS and social housing but what is our quality of life like? A struggle: seeking and waiting for the weekend and holidays to tick our souls over. We keep ourselves to ourselves, suspicious of those that so much as smile at us. We fight against so little not appreciating that the rest of the world is fighting for so much more.

And the most humbling to the point of shameful is that every single ‘escape maker’ I met did it with a smile on their face. They offered drinks, food, kisses to the cheeks, handshakes and kindness; none of them judged me and I, being me, never judged them.

They never complained – to the point it brought me to tears. When I asked my new friend why he seemed so happy even with so much stress he replied “if you know it is your last days, you spend them with laughter”.

Then one day, it occurs that you haven’t seen them today and neither tomorrow and you realise that they must have left for pastures horrific, hoping to get to the new – safety!

The idea that my beautiful 11 year old Hakim (and prospective son-in-law if Eva had her way) and all the other friends I made could now be dead makes a word like heartbreaking seem pointless.

When I was with them they were not migrants or refugees, we were all merely people who became friends.

Just Fucking Vote

People, we need to vote!

More than this we need to encourage voting. Self promotion of the viral kind seems to kick people into action so maybe we can create a selfie trend, I don’t know “#ballotboxbabe” or “#pollingdayselfie” (or something a little less crap) and donate money to all the people that have been royally screwed by the current setup…look around, you may know a few. 

I don’t care how you do it, just do it. Get your friends, family, your yout’ and yoofs to do it. Just fucking do it. Every vote counts.

I don’t care who you vote for (that’s a lie) but I care more that who’s elected represents society more accurately. If it transpires that’s UKIP, I’m outta here. If it’s Conservatives, damn you to hell…I jest of course (another lie).

If you are looking for a way to no longer be my friend, the simplest way is to tell me you didn’t vote.

If you think it’s ok to complain about the government and do nothing about it, shame on you. Because do you know who will be voting? All the people whose views you don’t agree with…you encounter them and kill them in your head every day! Fuckwits and ignoramuses who you have nothing in common with will turn up to the polling stations and represent you.

Just because some schools close, don’t just use it as a day off school. Soon there will many days off school as the deficit of school places increases and in any case, no underpaid teachers to teach them. The land where schools should stand  will instead make way for profitable, generic, unaffordable high rise new builds – you’re probably never more than three feet away from them (I digress).

You may sit there thinking that it doesn’t effect you because you’re young and carefree and you’ve got heating, water, electricity and the television is on. Meanwhile your parents are down at the food banks and shielding their inability to make ends meet and general daily struggles from you to enable you to remain young and carefree.

You may be a conspiracy theorist and not believe in politics or think voting’s a waste of time but whilst you sit there with the conspiracies and grievances in your head, the world is changing and you’re doing nothing about it. It’s easier (under no circumstances to be confused with ‘easy’) to get your conspiracies and grievances out of your head and heard with voices more akin to our own in power. Choose a party and vote.

We don’t have to agree on who to vote for, just fucking vote.

I know your jaded, I’m jaded too. You probably think politics and voting ‘doesn’t work’. However, if you’ve felt any effect in your pay; access to health services; benefits; housing; taxes in all its forms,etc, for the better or worse, since the last election then it works. It just maybe not working for you. And that is the point of voting – to [try and] make it work for ‘us’.

I will look after your kids; drive you there; combat every excuse you have to get you to the polls, I just want you to vote.

Get your name on the electoral register now and, come May, just fucking vote…please! 


Understanding Depression: A Girl Like Me

A Girl Like Me

I don’t like her. I probably did once upon a time but I don’t remember that. I look at photos of her and I think “I don’t like you Me”. After many years I can finally admit that.

The problem is it’s not straightforward to not like Me. It’s conflicting. Other people like this girl Me. They tell me that I should like Me. They say that she’s things like: beautiful, clever, funny, intelligent and give her genuinely good attributes and reasons why I should like her. I think I would like her if she were anyone else, but she is Me.

When I see Me I see someone ugly, stupid, fat, a failure. I think Me is a loser.  Although I don’t like Thoughts, I like them more than Me. Me is a fraud.  Me smiles when she is sad. Me spends money she doesn’t have. Thoughts are honest. They call a spade a spade. They scream ‘I am sad’ they say ‘you have no money You’. And I sympathise with Thoughts because they are never heard. Even though that’s all they live for: To be heard. To be made real. To get attention. To be liked. Everyone likes Me even though she is a fraud.  That is not fair.

I want to like Me. It would make life easier. Sometimes, if I don’t look at her in the mirror I like her.  Sometimes if I shut Thoughts up I like her. But that’s what everyone forgets: you can’t shut Thoughts up. It is their compensation for being ignored. Swings and Roundabouts. Justice.

Thoughts turn nasty when they don’t get their way. Well Negative Thoughts do. They beat Positive Thoughts up. Positive Thoughts don’t stand a chance when Negative Thoughts decide it’s their turn to play with your mind.  Neither does Happiness. Negative Thoughts don’t have time for Happiness. ‘Fuck off Happiness’ they say.

Negative Thoughts don’t like Happiness because everyone wants Happiness and nobody wants Negative Thoughts. And Negative Thoughts don’t want anyone to be happy if they’re not happy.

Negative Thoughts haven’t heard of ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ so they say things like “You should die”, “Everyone’s better off without you,” “Kill yourself”, even though if you die the Negative Thoughts die too. But that is one of the main selling points.

Even though nobody else can hear them, they are loud. Loud and strong.  This is their defence against not being heard: because when they are so loud, you can’t even hear anyone else.  That is why you nod in agreement when people say things like: “You have everything to live for” because you can’t really hear them. You just hear Negative Thoughts saying “They don’t understand you”, “You’re better off with me”, “I understand you”.

But you shouldn’t listen to Negative Thoughts because Negative thoughts have a hidden agenda. They don’t want anyone to like Me because Me only wants Happiness. “If I can’t have you nobody else will” says Negative Thoughts.

Why We Chase Love.

So yesterday I was questioning / pondering (as always) why people chase love even though they have the love of friends and family. Why is this love not enough?

After many poignant and intelligent theories, I summarised my findings succinctly as below:

Your family love you even if you’re a ****
Your friends love that you’re not always a ****
A partner loves you because you’re a ****

Who doesn’t want that kind of love?

tash speech

So this speech is not meant to make you cry cos as you know, I am as hard as nails and don’t like when you cry so don’t look at me ok? Just hear it!

But I want to start by saying that it is strange for me to sit looking out at a sea of people that I love and care so much about and gush about one person.  People that would never know how much they mean to me because my hardened heart will never let me say and because I do not know whether I will ever be given a more opportune time to say, I am going to do it now. So to my amazing mother, my precious big sister, my beautiful nieces and nephew and my cousins whom I am so proud of. My dad, my younger siblings who I see far too little of, Andrew Milnes, my aunts and uncle, my wonderful best friends whom I appreciate and thank for everything they’ve done for me and all that you are individually. My brilliant new brother Alexander and of course my precious daughter Eva. I genuinely love you all more than you will ever realise.

But ultimately this speech belongs to just one person and that is my beautiful twin, Natasha Michaela Martin.

I remember when Natasha, Corinne and I were growing up and we used to talk about who would get married first; Tasha would always be bottom of the list.

Literally, I was top (the irony isn’t wasted on me) Corinne would be next, we’d skip about 10 lines, and Tasha’s name would be underneath the bottom line in teeny titchy tiny writing….and even then we weren’t hopeful of marriage for her.

Now anyone that thinks I’m being unfair merely didn’t know her then. The fairest thing to say is that she didn’t always look and act like this.

People often ask what being a twin is like and if I ignore the fact that I am still yet to forgive her for bringing Antony into my life, there are many ways of answering this. In its simplest form it is having someone that you are really really close to but have to make no effort with whatsoever, the conflict this raises between us completely passes over us whilst everyone else is left feeling uncomfortable, irritated and/or embarrassed and whilst they’re still reeling we’re friends again.

It is speaking to her a million times a day and getting her opinion or advice on the most trivial or complex of matters. Sometimes I speak to others because I think, oh ok I have bothered her at least 10 times today and maybe someone else will have an opinion on whether the sky is a slightly lighter shade of blue (or other such interesting matters) and I’m left feeling baffled on how little they get me but it is not that they don’t get me, they just don’t get me in the way that I’ve taken for granted because I’m a twin.

And because we are so close I am sure people wonder whether today feels like I am losing her but I already lost her some time back in 2001 when she moved in with her first boyfriend and I cried and cried and cried but I didn’t know then that I hadn’t lost her, we’d simply had to evolve from sisters into friends. And when I felt excluded as a result of this she strived and continually involved me in all of her subsequent relationships and it is because of her inclusion of me in her life that I can look around the room and know most people here and count a lot of them as my own friends.

But being a twin is not all perfect as invariably feelings get hurt and one of us feels let down by the other because of the ridiculously high expectations of each other that are actually met 9 times out of 10. And I guess that is the single best thing about being a twin. That there is someone that is always striving to get it right for you 100% of the time even though they owe you nothing.

And Natasha, I know that you have always felt responsibility for me as well as guilt that I have not been fortunate in many areas of my life. And so I write this speech, as although I did not give you away officially today, I feel there is nobody better placed than me to give you away with my complete blessing and happiness for you and to say that you do not have to feel the misplaced guilt, responsibility or burden for the luck I’ve had and that it is always ok to be happy.

There is a misconception that Natasha is the stronger one of the two of us, probably founded on the fact that she introduces me to people first and tells anyone that will listen that I am 21 minutes younger. But a little known fact about Tasha is actually how sensitive and easily hurt she is and if it were anyone else marrying Tasha today, I would be warning them to look after her but I do not have to because I know that Alex appreciates who and what he has and that not only does he have her back, he has her heart. And I wouldn’t be able to finish this speech without mentioning Natasha’s husband, Alexander Fingal Martin aka “Alright Mister” who has not only been more than inclusive of me and the reason why I can count his family and friends as my own now too but who has been a great friend to me and more than this the most amazing, supportive and dependable uncle and male role model to Eva.

Alex and Tasha, you are both lucky to have each other and for the laughs, babysitting, support and singing Valerie to you of a Friday night, I am lucky to have you both.

And Natasha although we will no longer share the same surname, it aint no thang but a chicken wang because we will always have everything we’ve been through together.

So here’s to you Natasha Michaela Martin nee Wisdom. My Mode, my D’emploi, my twin, my heart.

Love you long time, always and forever

Natty nat-man Dude

…who loves ya baby?? you’re beautiful!

Poem of Lost Love

I unintentionally wiled away the hours.
I wiled away the hours whilst thinking of you:

The way your hair moved when you leaned down to kiss me;
The creases that lay waiting invisibly in the corners of your mouth and only appeared when you smiled;
The laugh that contradicted your masculinity.
That your rough hands always felt smooth when tracing my skin as we lay naked.

I thought of how happy you had made me.
How happy I had made you.
How happy we had been!

I wiled away the hours for so long that when the hours were over a silent tear jolted me into remembering that I no longer had you. That I had only thoughts of you…that wiled away the hours.

I did not know you but may you forever Rest In Peace

I did not know you but your premature death on Saturday saddened me and touched my life.

I did not know you, this lady that I come to write about: the lady who was tragically lying under a red blanket on Stoke Newington High Street whilst the masses milled around you, taking pictures, others making jokes or those still queueing at the butchers less than 3 feet from where you lay dead. I counted me as the sole person crying.

I do not know which I was more saddened by: your tragic death or the response around you as your shopping and shoe lay in the street, serving as a poignant reminder of how insignificant such things are in life.

The sun still shone, life still went on but society died with you. Humanity, compassion, respect all left this Earth when those that took pictures decided that their egos should be the overriding factor. People wanting to be the first one with the story; the person who knew the most; the person who had the most representative picture; the most detail; little understanding that it wasn’t about them, that the moment belonged to you.

That strangers cared more about you in death than in life is sad. That your image would be on social media sites before your blood was cold and whilst your relatives thought of you as alive is soul destroying.

I wish I could have shielded you from view and got it through to people that you were a human being – a person – and not a spectacle; that your death was not for their entertainment but I couldn’t and I am so terribly sorry that you lost your life and in doing so those around you did not afford you the dignity you deserved.

May you forever rest in peace.