About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer and an artist who was made in Soho and thereafter born in the heart of London. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children and grandchildren whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life, has a degree in Film and Television, and has exhibited her artwork in several exhibition.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Resolutions By Holly Searle

I never really make New Year Resolutions.

I just really go with the ebb and flow of life and accept what arrives in the post.

However, this last year has been a bit of a learning curve for me. And so I have decided that on the strength of all that I have learnt in 2012, I shall be making a few changes.

First of all I have decided that time is quite important.

It is ruthless in its continual ticking.

I should imagine this is due to the fact that I will be hitting a landmark birthday this coming year. And knowing that, makes me realise that I do not want to waste any more of it with people whose company I find quite irritating.

Like a reversed New Year's Honours List, I shall be rewarding myself by veering away from the company of those energy vampires whom I feel I have given enough of my time too without any personal rewards.

I think I may call it The Epiphany of My Dotage.

Come on, you have to admit that there are people in your life that you just get to a point with where you mentally throw your hands in the air and roll your eyes.

They wear you out, but you forgive them time and time again, until it just becomes a little dull and boring.

Well as 2013 begins, I will be whacking Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli's Time to Say Goodbye on my stereo and theatrically waving farewell to them all.

I shall find this process very liberating.

The second thing I shall be taking on board my ship a lot more often as it sails through 2013, will be those that I love.

I shall also follow my instincts as far as prospective suitors are concerned and keep my wits about me.

Although as the years are passing by at such a hectic rate and taking their toll on me, I doubt that this is something I shall be having to worry too much about.

And that is fine too.

I am kind of giving up worrying about it all now.

I have been carrying the possible relationship albatross around my shoulders for so many years now, it has passed away and has been stuffed by taxidermist for good measure.

I think I shall get rid of it now and just pop that bubble for good and forget about it (as I practically have).

For me 2013 will be all about me and mine and new beginnings and working towards the possibility of finishing my book.

In the spirit of the expected norm in the resolution stakes, I shall try not to eat as much and take better care of myself.

I shall endeavour to make better choices.

I shall smile and laugh more often and not let people upset me too much.

I shall read more books.

I shall write more often.

And I shall resist the temptation to make self-depreciating jokes at my own expense.

I shall say 'Yes' and mean it. And more importantly, I shall say 'No' and mean it.

On New Year's Eve just after Big Ben has sounded out the last of its twelve chimes, I always let the old year out through the back door and the new one in via the front door.

As I walk from one door to the other, I shall take a moment to have a ponder within that space in which no year yet exists.

Within those few moments of that as yet to be dated space, I shall strengthen my resolve for all that is ahead. And then, when I am ready for it, I shall open the front door and welcome 2013 with a big smile upon my face.

Happy New Year to you all.

Friday, 14 December 2012

It's Christmas By Holly Searle

Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?

Well, here it is, Christmas is upon us all once again.

And I have to admit, I rather like it.

I like it because even though I have absolutely no money with which to support the capitalist ideology of what Christmas has become, I am rich beyond my wildest dreams, because I have realised what Christmas is really all about.

I have a family with whom to spend Christmas Day with.

And no amount of cash could pay for that.

And whilst we all drive each other mad at best of times. At the worst of times, we all bond together like a small impenetrable gang watching each others backs.

That's us. All a bit bonkers, but all armed with the very best intentions for each other.

And I think that most families are just like mine.

All of this puts me in mind of my favourite Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life.

It is a tradition in my household that we all watch that movie every year roundabout this time.

Last year, I took Child Two to see it at the cinema as a treat. We were fortunate enough to be part of an audience in a proper cinema where a very nice man gave a talk prior to the beginning of the film.

He spoke about all the films that embodied the spirit of the Christmas season and we were spellbound by his words and by the choice of clips he had chosen to illustrate this.

Child Two and I sat there nodding in appreciation.

It was Christmas film heaven for both of us and set up the main feature to perfection.

What always surprises me about It's A Wonderful Life, is that each time I see it, I notice something different about it that I hadn't seen before.

I laughed with great affection one year, when I realised that the cop and the cab driver are called Bert and Ernie.

To understand why, you just need to see a few episodes of Sesame Street.

And every time I see this film, I always cry when Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class takes George to the cemetery where he shows him his brother Harry Bailey's gravestone and tells him that Harry died because George wasn't there to save him when they were children.

It is the pivotal point of the film and one that embodies what its overall message is all about. Not just for Christmas, but for all the other days, weeks and months of each and every year that we are here. We are vital to those that we are connected too, even if at times we may think that we aren't.

In his dystopian Pottersville reality, George witnesses the alternative lives of those he loves and cares for, had he never been born.

I find this segment of the film the most harrowing to watch.

And it always makes me take stock.

So here is what I think.

I think that even though we are all up against it at the moment, we should all take stock of our lives and focus on all that we have, as opposed to all that we do not.

Do not feel bad and go and spend money, that you do not have, on items that you do not need.

You will all be richer for it, in more ways than one.

Try to spread the cheer that is evoked throughout the Christmas season, throughout the coming year and beyond.

And on Christmas Day itself, just be grateful for all you have and for those that you have to share it with.

And go and watch It's A Wonderful Life.

And play that Slade record as much as possible.

And be more George Bailey and less Henry Potter.

And from me and mine, to you and yours, Merry Christmas one and all.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Two Men On A London Bus By Holly Searle

A few years ago, I was travelling on a bus in London, just looking out of the window and zoning out like I tend too do, when my ears honed in on a conversation that was taking place between two elderly men sitting near the front.

One had boarded the bus at a later stage to the other one and had recognised him with delight and as such, had sat down with him on the same seat and began a rather interesting chat.

They were both what I would call "Old Boys" of a certain class and background, who shared a commonality in their experiences and in their history.

They were discussing health and life and what was on each others agenda for the day. One was off to see his doctor in Harley Street, followed by a reunion in Soho with some old friends.

It was a joy to overhear their conversation and I was disappointed when after a far too short a time span, they bid each other farewell and went their separate ways.

I travelled on alone with a smile on my face recounting their interaction, the warmth of which accompanied me all the way home.

The residue of this event stayed with me for some time and I began to wonder why.

And then it dawned on me.

I couldn't recall the last time I had heard an exchange like it whilst travelling on public transport in London.

Mostly, my travels on buses are subjected to assaults from overbearing persons who do not speak my Mother tongue, but choose to speak in theirs at the tops of their voices.

And I have to admit, that because I do not understand what they are saying, this starts to grate on my nerves after a while.

The latest Census has revealed that I am now part of a minority in the city that I was born in the very heart of over forty years ago.

During those years London has welcomed people from all over the world and a majority of those people have decided to make her their home as well as mine.

But like all of the guests, I would welcome into my own home, I would expect them to respect my ways of doing things as opposed to theirs, while they are my guests.

If they didn't, I would consider their behaviour to be rude and ask them to leave and wouldn't invite them back again.

That is just the way I am.

And if the roles were reversed, I would certainly behave myself in their home and act accordingly.

That is just the way I am.

It is how I was brought up to behave as a guest in other people's homes.

But, it appears to me that there has been a shift in the society that we all inhabit.

It has nothing to do with race or creed, but everything to do with differences in culture and how we deal with that.

Or not.

I get the distinct impression that I am now part of a minority that has overtly made allowances for these cultural differences, without it being reciprocated, by those the allowances are being made for.

I know that I am not alone in drawing these conclusions as people often depart with this information far too frequently.

And that makes me sad.

It makes me sad because I feel like I am in a cultural void. One which has no foundation of its own.

A culture that was based on muck in, make do and mend, that is no longer recognised by the powers that be or by those that the allowances are made for.

I exist, but I have to shout louder than those I am assaulted by during my bus, journeys to be heard.

When what I would really just like, is to hear more from those two elderly gents who made my day, for a brief moment on a bus, in London, as few years ago.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

For My Next Trick By Holly Searle

When I was a youngest, I erected a wall around me. I erected it due to all the men that I had ever allowed to detract from my sensibilities.

It was hard for me to sustain and maintain that wall, because at my core lies a person who believes in people and all that they have to say.

As I got older, I dismantled that wall as I found that I had to be true to myself. It is who I am and I cannot change that.

Not having the wall means that I am open to everyone and anything. It is my default setting. I will take you as you are and act accordingly.

I have no idea what the events of the last week were meant to mean. I just welcomed them and responded to them as I saw fit.

Of course within any two way relationship, we can only take it at face value due to what we are told and how we are treated whilst it last.

It was all very odd.

The old version of me would have struggled with the impact of it all and possibly considered rebuilding that wall. But, I am happy to say that I looked at it all and decided that I wasn't going to allow that to happen.

I did nothing wrong. I was just being me. I trusted the situation and the person, as I was told by them that they were honest, truthful, didn't play games and like me, also wore their heart on their sleeve.

Unfortunately, due to this statement, I gave away far too much of myself and then became embroiled in some unfolding chaotic drama that was not of my making.

Even though I have ever sympathy for those affected by an unfortunate series of events, I felt used by all of those concerned. And that hurt me a great deal.

It affected me quite badly as it was like an explosion in a ticker tape factory. From the very off it appeared to be too good to be true.

Although, if I am honest about it, from the very off, I sensed that something wasn't quite right. The person was very self centred and the revelation that on top of their recent split, that had also been in receipt of counselling, led me to assume that they would have to have the constitution of a battle ship, to be able to encompass a new relationship.

I was obviously a sitting duck distraction.

When the dust had finally settled and reality bit, they did a u-turn and headed out of Dodge before the sun had set.

Initially I was heartbroken that someone should come baring so much and create illusions with promise of delivering more, only to then discard me like a like a toy that they no longer favoured

I had a choice. I could let it upset me, or I could say to myself, what a complete idiot and move on.

I chose the latter.

I do not need to lower my expectations of who I am, by allowing myself to spend my time slumming it with someone like him.

I cannot stand those personalities who are so complex and intense they demand the attention of an unwilling audience by wallowing so openly in self-pity. And your self flagellation was the most unattractive thing I have ever bore witness too.

It isn't attractive and if I wanted to put myself through that, I would have just watch Krzysztof Kieslowski Three Colours trilogy.

Like I said, I have ever sympathy, but do it on your own time and not on mine.

We all suffer varying degrees of upset, lost and transition at some point in our lives. If we didn't, we would never be able to appreciate all the good things that happen to us.

And you very nearly had me there, but this lady isn't prepared to put up with street magicians and their sleight of hand trickery or court jesters with bells on their hats.

No, I am more interested in reality and the brightness of my future. I am more interested in my own well being and all the genuine people in my life and all of those I have yet to meet.

And I like the way my life is, without you in it.

I hope that no man ever does to your daughter, what you did to me. But chances are, while there are men in the world like you, they will.

And so, with one more joker ejected from the pack, my default settings are fully restored.

And for my next trick, I am off to a happy place and you're not invited.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The End By Holly Searle

At the beginning of last week, I was quite happy with my lot. I had just started a new job and everything was looking rosy.

Then out of the blue I received that text message from my friend regarding the interest that a man from the past had shown in me. My human heckles went up. I didn't quite know what to do about it all, as it has been a while since anyone has shown any interest in me.

I went off on that first date with no preconception at all as to what it may bring, but it ended up delivering more than I ever thought was possible for someone like me.

It also gave me back something. It gave me the small gift of hope with the promise of more to follow.

It was like a dream that I didn't want to wake up from. I couldn't believe my luck. At my age, the buses do not appear to arrive as quickly as they once did in my youth.

Then the rescue. I didn't ask for that. I didn't ask for the intimacy, but I welcomed it will open arms as that is the sort of person I have always been and probably will remain so for the rest of my life.

It was perfect.

I made the most fatal error of all in sharing this news with a few close friends. I am glad that I didn't hire a biplane a with a message attached to its tail now reporting my good fortune, as it then it all began to go horribly wrong.

We are due to meet a few days after our perfect evening. When I arrive, I am not an idiot and I realise straight away that something isn't right with him.

His beautiful face carries an unremitting sadness that is beyond repair. I sense that this isn't going to go well. I ask him if he is okay as he looks like an animal in pain. He says no, he is fine.

We walk, he asks me a few questions. I gabble on, trying to fill the space that is increasing between us.

And then I realise that he is crying. It is just the most awful thing in the world. I
I cuddle him and ask him what is wrong and he tells me.

It is his children. In the event of his recent unexpected break-up, he is devastated by the affect it is having on them.

I say all I can to support him. I do not know what to do. I am sadden by his pain. It isn't nice.

We leave the park and he drives me home. I am uncomfortable as to know what to do. There is an air of loss and brevity about all that follows.

I make him a cup of tea. He cries again. I wipe away his tears and hug him.

He leaves and tells me that he really likes me, but wants our times together to be happy. I say I agree. He cuddles me and I also start to cry as something is flagging up in my mind about all of this. Something I have encountered all too often.

He is saying one thing, but what he is really saying, isn't that clear. As I realise he has realised that he has taken on too much.

He cuddles me and I start to cry. I don't want to cry, but I know that there is a sense of an ending about all of this and once again another man is leaving me.

I hear nothing from him.

And when I do. My worst fears are realised.

I am not a selfish person. And I should really know better than to wear my heart on my sleeve. And if he had just taken a moment to consider all of this before he blew up my emotional balloon, if he had only thought it through, maybe I wouldn't be so devastated now.

I realise that he has a journey to go on and a new foundation to build for his children. I am not an idiot, but I feel like one.

I will not doubt move on. What choice do I have in the matter?

He has apologised and ended it with me via a text. I would have hoped that I was worthy of a call or a visit to deliver this news, but at least I know now.

I wish him well. He isn't a bad person, just one that is lost in an emotional sea of turmoil and unpleasantness.

I hope he works it all out, I really do.

Me, well I guess, I should really learn something from all of this, but what that is, I couldn't possibly say.

Just like that bull called Ferdinand from the children's story called The Story of Ferdinand The Bull, I shall just go and sit back under that mental tree in a field and smell the flowers and be quiet.

I don't actually know what else I can do.

The Little Journeyman By Holly Searle

As a parent I have strived for the past twenty plus years to ensure that the well being of my children was paramount on my agenda. I have feed and watered them both, ensured that their clothes were clean and that their shoes were polished. I have created a stable environment for them both to grow up in. I have watched over them when they have been ill, helped them learn to tie their shoes, put plasters on their cuts and have tried to keep them free from harm.

To be honest with you, I have winged most of this parenting stuff as throughout most of it, I haven't the foggiest idea what I was doing. Children do not come with instruction manuals or handbooks explaining their individual requirements, so it has been a learning curve for all three of us.

At the best of times, it has been incredible. At the worst of times it has been heartbreaking. But if there is one thing that I have learnt, it is that you must always be there for them, no matter what.

I am endlessly proud of both of them in all they do, say and act. I honestly couldn't have nicer children and my heart is full to bursting with equal amounts of love for each of them.

In life we encounter many transitions especially as we are growing up. There are little leaps to and from one destination to another and sometimes these aren't as easy as they could be for our children. And as a parent I am emotionally bleeding for the journey that my son in currently on.

He is a lovely child. Easy and charming with no malice or anger within his soul. He is caring and solid. He has never been in trouble or the cause of any.

Throughout his primary education he learnt and grew with the same group of children. They were a very special class. They all supported each other through all of their ups and downs throughout the years they spent in each others company.

This year they were all disbanded to various secondary schools and this was met with immense sadness by all of them.

Thirty plus kids all put out to tender and heading off in different directions.

My son was one of four from his class to be accepted into his next school.

He has found this transition incredibly difficult. At first, he embraced the newness of it all with an open mind and heart. He loved it so much (after his initial worries), that he wanted to know why he could not attend at the weekends as well.

But then, it all began to dawn on him that these new children that he was mixing with were not the same as those he had left behind.

This has left him with mixed feelings with regards to how he should deal with it all.

Not only has he had to deal with an overload of new responsibilities, he has also had to deal with children who are motivated by unacceptable social behaviour.

He doesn't understand this mindset or how it works. And that is causing issues for him.

He has been called names, had money demanded from another child and has been the subject of ridicule.

I remember quite clearly my daughter going through the same process during her first year at secondary school. Two rather nasty social misfits decided that they would make her life hell. It wasn't just in school that they carried out their evilness as they started to call at our home. I approached her year tutor regarding this matter and was told that I didn't understand as these two children came from troubled homes. I found that unacceptable and moved her.

I wonder sometimes if that was the beginning for this nanny state that we now find ourselves living in.

Although I have every sympathy for children who are having a bad time, I found it diabolical that my child should suffer because she had to make allowances for those that didn't have a parent or an upbringing like she did.

Is that what we do? Excuse at our own cost? I don't think so.

A bully is a bully.

I recall a fantastic song from the underrated Everything But The Girl called Little Hitler.

There is a lyric in that song that goes

Little Hitlers, little Hitlers
Grow up into big Hitlers
Look what they do

I am not happy that my son is not happy and will do all I can to ensure that the affects that those driven my a malevolent streak is dissipated as quickly as possible.

I have always worried about him more in this sense than my daughter.

You worry about your daughters, because you feel that they are more vulnerable to other unsavoury social elements. But as she grew, I realised that women form stronger bonds and are more apt at looking after each other in the process.

Boys are a different kettle of fish all together. I think they are much more at risk from these elements. And as I am aware of this, I shall be making sure he isn't targeted or harmed in any way shape or form by those with less favourable intentions.

And, I might add, who do not have a parent like my children do.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

S.O.S By Holly Searle

I have never been the subject (or the object for that matter of a rescue). I should imagine this is due to the fact that I do not recognise the need to be rescued (due to years of self-sufficiency) and therefore just plod along aimlessly falling over stationary items or down the stairs of buses without any outside inquiry as to the state of my general well being.

Just like the words of that chipper little number I just " pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again" without a second thought. It is what I am used to, being the carer as opposed to the cared for.

But, there was something in that kiss that ignited a sequence of events that led to my first (and only) rescue and this is how it all occurred.

It is raining and I am tired from work. I just want to go home and see Child Two. I board the bus. It is a good hour to and from work, which is long enough to be held captive in a condensed windowed brightly lit space with a load of random strangers.

I split the journey in my head into three equal sections that last twenty minutes. Once I have completed one of these sections I know that I am a third of the way home.

However, as I am just about the enter the second section the bus halts. At first I think it is just traffic. But then after an unreasonable amount of stationary gridlock, I ask the driver if there has been an accident. He replies that there has and I realise that this bus isn't going anywhere any time soon. So I ask him if I can get off and he kindly opens the doors and I start to walk.

It is raining. Not drips, but big rain. Still I think to myself at least I am in charge of making my own way home even if I do have to walk. I am not alone. A young girl has also jumped ship. She and I start a conversation based upon the distance to the nearest station from where we are. We walk together. As a lone walker, I am not phased by the task ahead. But it is dark and she is unfamiliar with the area and tells me that she is glad that we are making the journey together.

As I vacated the bus, I send a text message to my date and tell him of my plight. I think nothing of it as we have kept in contact via a stream of messages recounting our activities since our date. I like it. I like sharing with him.

I know that whatever has halted the bus will be up ahead at some point. I do not want to bare witness to any human horror that may be there, as it will upset me and so I brace myself.

As my companion and I round the bend we see blue lights and mayhem up ahead. Two buses have tried to pass each other in opposite directions and have managed to get stuck in the process. There appears to be no death or injury, only a queue of cars behind each bus that stretch back quite a distance. I realise at this moment that I have made the right choice. As we pass the accident, I do not look to see beyond my first impression of the scene. I don't want to.

We carry on walking and eventually we reach the station and she thanks me and heads off and then my phone rings.

My date asks me where I am and I tell him. He says that he isn't far and if I wait, he'll come and find me and drive me home.

In the time it has taken my companion and myself to walk to the station, the buses have started to run again. I think to myself that I could actually get the bus and head home under my own stream, but I can't wait to see him.

I am soaking wet and shattered from work. But I don't care.

I wait and he calls and tells me to cross over to a better spot for collection. I do. I wait a few minutes and there he is my knight is his uniform at the wheel of his car coming to rescue me.

I look at his beautiful tired face and feel suddenly shy. He drives me home and admits to being a little self-conscious of his post work state after the day he has endured (he is a paramedic).

I tell him not to worry as we are equally unprepared for our impromptu meeting. I just like being in his car with him, I just like being with him.

As we arrive at mine I ask him if he'd like to have dinner with Child Two and me. He answers straight away with a positive yes and we go in.

I make supper, it is nothing amazing, while he chats with my son.

I like hearing the low reassuring hum of their conversation while I prepare the meal.

We all eat and my son heads off for his night time ablution and bed.

We just cuddle as if it is were the most natural thing in the world. I toy with the idea of keeping him captive like that with me for all the time that will follow on from that moment.

He is a very peaceful soul and a kindred spirit.

I like him quite a bit.

I like him quite a bit because I sent him an unintentional S.O.S on a wet rainy Monday in November and because out of the blue he answered that by rescuing me.

And no one ever did that for me before.

I feel like Mary in It's A Wonderful Life pointing at the picture she has had made for George and saying "George Bailey lassos the moon."

But I think I'll wait.

However, there is a post script to these events, which I cannot add at this present time, as I do not have any words.

All I will say is, that each journey starts with one step followed by another and then another. The destination may not be clear, but the intention is good. And that, my friends, is what it looks like on the map of the human heart that I am reading right now.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The KIss By Holly Searle

It's been a while since I was kissed.

I don't mean in the fond sentimental way that your children will kiss you or the way in which you say hello to your friends with a quick peck on the cheek.

No, I am talking about one of those kisses that ignites your sensual recall and reminds you of something that you haven't encountered for a very, very long time.

When I think about it, I would have to say that it has been quite possibly years since I was kissed like that by a man, and it was in all probability one of the best kisses I have ever had.

And I shall tell you this for nothing. It has woken me up and it has rebooted my emotional hard drive.

The kiss is the deal breaker isn't it? It's where it begins. It's the litmus paper test of a promise of the possible passion that may follow later.

If the kiss isn't right, something instinctive tells you that the person delivering that kiss is holding back in some way or that they just aren't on the same primeval wave length as you.

I have kissed a few men like that and I can tell you this for free, my instincts were correct. Those kisses delivered nothing. They weren't exceptional in any way and neither were the men that gave them.

It is quite an important moment that first kiss. It cannot be repeated so the moment it happens, it must be savoured. It must be special. It is a gift as long as it contains all the essential elements required to make it so.

So way was this kiss so special.

Well here's the thing.

I wrote about all that I looked forward to in Hope. Since I wrote that (and in the time that led up to it), I became aware of the fact that I had come so far, but that the one thing that was missing from my life was the shared intimacy of another person.

I had become accustomed to my single life. It is fine. Time passes pretty quickly, life moves on and I am happy with it all. I pat myself on the back at all I have achieved. I meet old friends and I make new ones and pretty soon the idea of ever meeting another soul like me fades.

It doesn't fade in a sad way, it just dissipated and its void is consumed by my day to day life.

That was until I received a text message and that was how it all began.

The text was from a friend of whom I hold in great esteem. She asked me how my new job is going and casually throws in to the body of the texts the fact that my name had been mentioned.

I reply with avid curiosity as to whom the mentioner of my name might be. She replies with his name and I am blown away.

A man from the past and one of whom I had always had a soft spot for. She asks me if she would like me to adopt a Cilia Black guise and instigate further proceedings. I think she is being funny, but the following day he contacts me.

I suddenly realise that it is real and I am so flattered that he has. He asks me if I would like to meet up. A date I think? He is only the second man to ever ask me this question. I mentally blush and accept.

The following day it all dawns on me that I have a date. Not a cyberspace date, but an actual date with someone I had liked. My excitement buffer starts to fill up and I get it all straight in my head with regards to the reality of it all.

It has been over twenty years since I have seen this person. We are both older and have been through those life mills. I worry about all those stupid self deprecating things I worry about like looking older and fatter. I start to stress a bit. But then I tell all of those negative thoughts to do one and just relax and decide to just go with the flow.

I think to myself “Look, if it is nothing, then you have seen an old friend. If it something, then deal with that as and when.”

I put that thought in my pocket and focus on the positive.

On the day, I end up with some time to myself. I am excited and I want the day to pass so I can go and meet him.

The latter part of the day speeds up and eventually I am ready to go. I realise I am slightly flustered as I leave.

My fears start to return. I tell them to sod off and tap my pocket and walk forward.

I meet him and it is easy and comfortable. We talk about recent life events. We laugh about the nonchalant dog that my family had had.

We are having great evening and I think to myself I really want get out of this pub and to be alone with him as I want to kiss him.

We leave and he offers me his arm. It is a nice gentle thing to do. We walk and we find a spot. We sit. It is cold. He puts his arm around me. It feels familiar and right. And then he kissed me. And then he kissed me some more. And then a bit more.

It wasn't odd or weird or out of context. It was perfect. He is just lovely and he takes my breath away. I feel dizzy.

We conclude the evening with him walking me home and with the joint agreement that we shall meet up again for a second date.

Before he goes. I am torn as I actually don't want him too. I just want to kiss him all night. I like the way he touches me. It feels right. It isn't about sex, it is something much more intimate than that. It is something I think we have both missed.

I'd like to be alone with him, away from the world, just us, but I realise that I must be satisfied with the kissing for now as I don't want to spoil the moment. I want to look forward to the next kiss rather than let the first overwhelm me.

We are both older and a little raw. Life has left it's scars on each of us. Life can affect sensitive people like that, I know this for a fact and I think he may well know this too.

But those kisses. They were quite incredible. They kept me warm throughout the night. I embraced them and so did he and I am glad that we both did. And I can't wait for the next date and more of those kisses.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Gatekeepers of Hushaby Land by Holly Searle

Once upon a time a long long long time ago, there lived in the peaceful sleepy realm of Hushaby Land a gentle townsfolk who were ruled by a kind King called Hector.

King Hector was married to Queen Hilly and they had twin boys called Hank and Harry.

King Hector was kind and loving and as such, he made sure that all of those that lived within his kingdom were happy of heart and kind in spirit and that they all looked after each another.

The only thing that King Hector insisted upon in his Kingdom and that he was pretty strict about, was that all of his people slept well each and every night, and that they dreamt of only of joyful things.

And for many years the good people of Hushaby Land had slept these wonderful sleeps uninterrupted by fear, worry or stress, until one spring morning, when a stranger arrived.

As Hushaby Land had no gatekeeper and as King Hector had no reason to believe that there were people in the world unlike those he ruled over, the stranger was welcomed to enter Hushaby Land without question or quibble.

But when washing started to vanish from washing lines and goods were taken from stalls in the market place, the good people of Hushaby Land started to have very bad dreams indeed.

Their sleeps weren't restful and as a result, they grew tired and stressed and grumpy.

One day King Hector said to Queen Hilly “Do you hear that?” “Hear what my love?” she answered with another question (which is always really annoying).

“I can’t hear any laughter in the streets or the sound of good cheer coming from the townsfolk. Something must be wrong!”

King Hector put on his best cloak and headed off to the village to find out what was going one.

The first person he met was Hooky the local historian.

“Hooky, what is wrong in Hushaby Land?” The King asked.

Hooky yawned and said “Oh Your Majesty, a stranger arrived, but has since departed. But while he was here, there appeared to be some issues, which in turn cause some upset. Since then,the townsfolk haven't be sleeping at all well."

“What?" The King asked in surprise “Why wasn’t I told of this?”

Hooky said “Well nobody wanted you to have a bad nights sleep as well, so we thought it best not to tell you Sire."

This made the King very sad. “Hooky this makes me very unhappy indeed. Whilst I may be the King of this land, I am still the same as every other living souls that resides here. As such, I understand the importance of a good night's sleep. Now, what I need you to advise me of, is how you think we can make sure this never happens again?”

Hooky stifled a yawn and rubbed his eyes and said “Well, these are modern times Majesty and I would say as such, although we should always welcome new visitors to Hushaby Land, we should also be aware that not everyone is to be trusted. I have heard that most Kingdoms nowadays now have a Gatekeeper, to ensure that each arrival is welcomed as well as scrutinised, prior to entering. My advice to you, is to hire one to ensure that this never happens again.”

“A Gatekeeper you say?” The King pondered.

“It should be a very special and responsible person who watches over these arrivals to the realm Sire.” Said Hooky.

The King rubbed his chin in thought and then replied “Well then a Gatekeeper we shall have! For I will never sleep well again, until I know that everyone that resides in Hushaby Land sleeps well too”.

With that, King Hector wearing his favourite cloak, returned to the Palace to think of whom would be most suitable for the post.

Now Hank and Harry were very happy to be Princes, but sometimes (and don’t let King Hector know this) they were a little bored.

They also knew it would be ages until any swanky Princesses were likely to arrive in the Kingdom (thousands of years in fact) and in the meantime they needed something to keep themselves busy. So when King Hector raised the idea of the Gatekeeper during dinner that night with the Princes, they jumped at the opportunity and said that they felt it was only right that they should fulfil their duty to their King and Kingdom by acting as the joint Gatekeepers to Hushaby Land.

At first King Hector wasn’t at all convinced, but when Queen Hilly said “Oh Hector, they only watch the Royal Telly all-day everyday and play HRX-Box, I think it will be the making of them!”

And so it was that Hank and Harry became the joint Gatekeepers of Hushaby Land.

And as there were two of them, one worked the day shifts, whilst the other took the nights so that the realm was always guarded and secure twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

And no one ever had a bad dream again.

Night night and sleep well.

The End

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Wearing My Heart On My Lapel By Holly Searle

In remembrance of my Great Grandfather George Frederick Frost 1873 - 1937, who went to war and then came home. And for all of those that did not.

In 1920 it was decided the poppy should be adopted as the symbol to commemorate all of those that who had died as a result of war.

This adaptation is thought to derive from two sources; one, due to the fact that the poppy was the only flower that grew in the churned up battlegrounds that had once been innocent and unassuming fields in Ypres, Belgium prior to World War I. And two, due to John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields which he wrote on May 3 1915 after attending the funeral of his friend Lieutenant Alex Helmer, who had been killed a few days prior to the Second Battle of Ypres.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

When I was a truculent youngster, I dismissed the wearing of a poppy as I felt that its very affectation only supported the unremitting and ugly acts of warfare that have blighted humanity, at an unforgiving cost. I do no support war, as the repercussions of its very being, just creates scars that cannot ever be healed for all of those that have ever been affected by its consequence and of the haunting echoes that its evil presence leaves behind.

My opinion changed however when I worked with the World War 1 soldier's documents at The National Archives in Kew. Whilst I still, and never will support any war, I began to examine the brutal and devastating loss of life that was attributed to its futility which in turn brought home to me the shocking reality of those that lost their lives and why wearing a poppy is so important.

It is quite beyond belief that there were over 37 million military and civilian deaths and casualties during World War 1. Over 16 million deaths and over 20 million casualties. It was one of the most deadly conflicts ever seen in our history.

And so with the knowledge of these heart-breaking statistics, I will always pin a poppy firmly to my lapel in the latter week of October every year and until the 11th of November has passed.

It is the very least I can do.

It is quite inconceivable to comprehend those numbers. Boys as young as 15 signed up and were lost forever. Men witnessed such horrors, that they returned home to their families, shells of their former selves devoid of all emotion and the capability to discuss it. Or after returning home from a tour of duty, they had deserted as a consequence of what they had witnessed and were shot simply because they could not cope.

And let's not forget those animals that were enlisted as well.

I remember quite clearly reading Kate Atkinson's first novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum on a train journey and crying openly as I read a passage set in WW1, where Jack, a character who trains dogs for special military missions and who has grown so attached to one, that he is killed when he leaves his trench as he tries to rescue the poor wounded creature as it lays dying in no man's land.

Or those brave men who dug and spent hours in those claustrophobic tunnels that ran from their trench to their oppositions, with the precarious knowledge hanging over them like The Sword of Damocles that the tunnel may well collapse at any moment, burying them.

It is all too much to even imagine.

A few years ago, I decided that I would explain to my son why I wear a poppy. I also wanted him to be aware of the consequences of war and so I took him to Westminster on Remembrance Sunday. It was a cold harsh early November morning and as we climbed the stairs to exit the station entrance that lies adjacent to Big Ben, we were met with a sea of humanity.

Thousands of people lined the streets waiting for Big Ben to strike the eleventh hour. We found a space at one of the barriers and waited along with them. I had explained to him the procedure, that at 11 o'clock everyone would be still for two minutes to show their respect for all of those that had died as the result of conflict.

There was a sombre atmosphere as the minutes ticked away as we all headed towards the hour. Then as Big Ben began to sound out, I looked at my son and said “Take off your hat son.” And we stood together in silence with all of the thousands of other people there for the duration. I have never known London to be as quiet as it was on that November morning. And when the eleventh bell had sounded and we had heard the riffle salute that heralded the end of the two minutes silence, my son looked up at me and asked “Is it all right to speak now?” I smiled at him and ruffled his hair and them kissed him gently and told him yes it was.

We took a tour around Westminster and stopped to look at all the statues and wreaths of poppies that had been laid at their feet. We saw elderly servicemen emblazoned with their medals and the weary look of the remembrance that war had etched into their faces.

Then we returned home.

Those two minutes of silence are the most personal and yet intensely emotional I have ever collectively shared or spent with other people. The emotive pathos of it all, is almost beyond explanation but one I shall never forget, more so, because my son was there with me. And I hope he will always remember it and tell his children about it, because no one should ever forget such atrocities ever took place.

And for me, wearing a poppy has never been a jingoistic thing. It is a humanistic thing and my respect and very crippling personal and emotional response to all the life that has been lost and my reminder of that.

Wearing a poppy reminds me of just how lucky and fortunate I am, and of those who weren't as blessed.

Lest we forget.

Recently I went to view a function room for a forthcoming family event. It was part of a rugby clubhouse and on the wall there was a wooden plaque that listed all of the team captains that had ever played for the club. Between 1914 - 1918 there were none listed. I pointed it out to my son and asked him why there was a gap, to which he replied "Because of the war."

Job done.

The next summer the soil, fertilised by twenty thousand corpses, broke forth into millions of poppies.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dark By Holly Searle

I will not watch scary films full stop. I will not watch them, simply because my imagination will just keep me awake throughout the night thereafter taunting me endlessly with the prospect that something supernatural is bound to happen to me during the course of that night.

Neither will I read scary books for the very same reason. I have learnt from past experiences, that for me, this is the best course of action.

But of course before I was aware of this, I endured many sleepless nights of pure and unequivocal fear at my own hand because I just couldn't stop myself from watching that film or simply because I just couldn't put down that damn book.

For example, after watching the Bob Hope in 1939 version of The Cat and the Canary as a child, I just couldn't sleep as I kept replaying the hands appearing from the headboard of bed scene over and over in my head. I didn't live in a spooky old mansion and nor did I sleep in a four poster bed through which a pair of hands might have emerged. But what that sequence had managed to do, was to implant in my mind the fear of the impossible through the implausible. And when you are scared by mere suggestion, your mind will believe anything.

For days after seeing that film, I would check the wall behind my bed to ensure that the possibilities of those hands appearing was beyond remote.

Even though I have made a pact with myself never to watch a film or read a book that may scare me again, the remembrance of all the times when I did, has literally haunted me ever since. And like a suppressed mental spectre can creep up on me when I least expect it to like Bela Lugosi biding me welcome to his home.

Many years later I went to stay with my Dad in his house in Ireland. It was my first visit and I didn't know what to expect. His house was situated in a secluded place outside of town that was surrounded by woodland with a river to the rear of the property.

I eventually arrived from London after a very long coach and boat combo that had left me exhausted, so on my first night there, it is safe to say, that I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow on the makeshift bed I was sleeping on in a room downstairs.

However, on the second night, it was a very different story.

It was dark, so dark in fact, that when I opened my eyes, I thought I must have gone blind. And, it was also far too quiet, all except that was, for an unidentifiable noise. As I lay in the dark listening to the noise, no amount of rational thinking as to what it could be could quell my unease.

I reached for the light, but was unable to find it. It was then that I felt a sense of panic. I reasoned that the light switch couldn't be too far away and scolded myself for not being able to find it. I tried again and this time, I was successful and found it. It was in the exactly the same place that I had tried only a few moments before.

Light flooded the room, but the noise continued and I didn't sleep at all.

The following morning I explained the previous nights events to my Dad and he said he thought it was probably a badger drinking from the rainwater trough outside the window of the room I had been sleeping in. So it was decided that I should move my bed upstairs to an open landing space, that nestled between the two occupied bedrooms.

In was a nice space and I was happy enough.

But, there was something not quite right about that house. It was very old, over 500 years old in fact and I always felt as though I was being watched or that someone was standing behind me, when it fact neither were true, or was it?

I dismissed both notions as ridiculous and never spoke of them to my Dad or my Step Mum. I just put it all down to being a city dweller in the country.

Then one night we had a storm and all of the power was cut. The house and all of the surrounding areas were pitch black. My step Mum and I were near the front door when it happened and we screamed as we tired to find our way back to the house.

My Dad appeared and told us off for making such a fuss, but later she told me that in Ireland the evil spirits play tricks on you and maybe they had turned us around to make us lose our bearings.

We laughed in the face of it all and went to bed.

Then a few nights later it happened.

I was laying in my bed on the landing. It was dark, but all of a sudden the darkness became unbearable and I felt as though I was being smothered by it. Again, I felt a sense of sheer panic and without hesitation I sat up and proceeded to get out of bed to switch the light on. As I did so, something met me in the dark, It was cold, ice cold and swooshed passed my face, just like when another person passes by you.

I cannot tell you how scared I was and when I eventually found the light switch, the sensation of fear remained and so did the feeling that I was not alone.

The light remained on and I didn't sleep at all well that night as the fear of what had happened had found its way into the very bones of me.

Years later, on another visit to Ireland, we were talking about that house and I happened to mention that event and how uneasy I had felt in that house.

My step Mum agreed and said that she had often felt like she was also being watched and that she though it was Holy Kate who had lived there for years before they had taken it over.

She recounted her own story of reading a letter that they had found during their work on the house and the sensation that someone was standing behind her whilst she had read it.

I shivered when she told me that as I thought it had just my imagination playing tricks on me all alone in the dark, when in fact it was something else.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Fellini's Parmesan By Holly Searle

When I was growing up, my Mum would recount stories of her adventures in Soho. She had always wanted to be apart of something more exciting than that of the life she had in Surrey on the outskirts of London. So she headed into the city to see what she might find.

One of her jobs was working at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in Soho. Not the new one, but the old one. She'd make bacon sandwiches for the musicians in the morning and tend the bar during the evening when the club was open.

By then, she had had my brother and was carrying me. One of the tales we were told over the years, was of how Ella Fitzgerald had once sat my brother on her knee. How incredible is that?

During this period in their lives, my parents lived in the heart of Soho. My Dad was an editor at ITN who wanted to be an artist and who regularly courted the company of other artists of his generation.

When I voiced my amazement at how fantastic this must have been, my Mum just says it wasn't really, as it was just like any other place that you would live in with its shops and a community full of local characters.

In the late sixties, my Mum landed a job running a character model agency. In the post war years, there were no agencies like this one for the new wave of photographers like Terence Donovan and David Bailey to book models through. The world was still gazing at Dior type models that wore nice clothes that were being shot by the likes of John French. But times were changing and her agency found a niche in the market and plugged the gap with great success.

Through her job, Mum met and worked with lots of different well known people. As kids, we were not in the least bit interested. We were just children in a normal family trying to make ends meet like everyone else. We weren't ever wealthy, but we were privy too experiences that the other children we knew were not. As we grew we became involved in some aspects of her work, most notably as background artists on films and commercials and the like. We never thought about or sought out the realm of celebrity culture as it wasn't for us and all went on to lead relatively normal everyday lives and were better for it.

I am not telling you these stories because I want to impress you. I am telling you them as I have come to conclude that the value of celebrity in recent years (and in view of the Jimmy Savile Case) has become somewhat tainted by the lacklustre culture that surrounds it.

I recently saw a debate regarding the Savile incidents where someone drew the same conclusion and also upheld an opinion that my Mum had often voiced to us over the years which was this.

All of these people that we invite into our living rooms everyday and watch at the pictures in films are just doing a job like you and I. They are not super humans or deities to be worshipped, they are no different from your postman or that kind lady who gives up her spare time to work in the local charity shop that you often visit.

They are just playing a role in society like everyone else and nothing more.

I was glad my Mum told us this as I think that it coloured our perceptions in a positive way, rather than a deluded one. And probably because of this little bit of simple wisdom, I am not glamoured by fame at all.

But I will tell you what I am impressed by. I am impressed by the production of something tangible that has obviously been produced by an individual with real talent. It might be a book or a painting, or a fine performance in a role or the lyrics of a song, or a piece of music that just blows me away.

It is that that I am impressed by and it is that that makes me want to approach the person who produced it and shake their hand and say to them “ Fine job, well done.”

But, for the majority it doesn't work like that.

It made me think about Kenneth Angers series of Hollywood Babylon books, which concentrated their efforts on exposing the darker side of celebrity in the early years of Hollywood. They are quite nasty really, recounting the vices associated with various stars that were once pin ups and viable movers and shakers within the industry that they made money from (and in turn had made money out of them) who had fallen from grace due to one indiscretion or another.

They were just people, who were probably unable to cope with it all. Maybe it just wasn't a life fit for them or maybe it was one in which they were able to use and abuse the situations in which they found themselves in, until such a time that they were found out. Sound familiar?

Well, in light of this, I thought about the appalling over saturation on our TV's of these search for talent shows that are regularly churned out year in and year out that deliver more celebrities devoid of any real talent that choose to pursue this life (for reasons beyond those I can ever understand) in the limelight and the price they pay for their fifteen minutes of fame.

I couldn't imagine ever being prepared to give away my privacy just so I could be seen as someone in this culture, not even for those fifteen minutes as the price is just too high.

I do think that people need to rethink their own perceptions of fame and of the role it actually plays within their lives. I cannot abide those magazine or reality TV shows that perpetuate this culture as I find it at the best of times shallow and lacking in any form of nutritional brain value. It saddens me immensely more so because a percentage of society aspires to be just like those that they are tuning in to see, or being are entertained by. Definitely a stick of chewing gum for the mind that losses its favour very quickly.

But let me share with you the three times that I have been affected by fame in one sense or another.

Once was when my Mum sent me off to work on a commercial that featured Tony Curtis. Being a child that had grown up on a diet of films of the 1950's, I was literally star stuck to be several feet from away from him. Someone whom I was working with made their approach and asked him to sign something for them. He was gracious and amiable and smiled throughout and was happy to fulfil their request.

I just thought I shouldn't bother the man and I felt it was rude. I regret that as Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films and I would like to have told him so.

Then there was the time that I attended an exhibition of Lucian Freud's paintings at The Tate with my Dad. It was very quiet in the room as my Dad beckoned me over to him. He pointed to a painting of a group of children all sitting together on a seat and said to me “You see those children in this picture?” “Yes” I replied unsure of where this was leading. “Well” My Dad said “You used to play with them when you were small.”

And then there was that Parmesan cheese that appeared in our fridge at home when I was growing up. I asked my Mum what this alien thing was and she told me. But, it was only years later that she told me that during his visits to London Federico Fellini used to bring her this as a gift from Italy.

I am personally more impressed with these three episodes in my life, than with any reality TV show or celebrity that could ever grace our screens. They were all part of my own personal cultural history and making as I grew up, rather than those that I was spoon fed by the media that held no real value for me.

I am lucky, not only because of all the things I have been privy too, but because in doing so, I have be able to understand that quality is what really matters rather than quantity.

And maybe, that then explains why I never felt the need to write a letter to Jimmy Savile when I was younger asking him to fix something for me and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

My Ingenious Little Genius By Holly Searle

When my son was born, I thought to myself "He's been here before."

From the very off he was like a wise little old man and not like a child at all. He was always interested in everything and anything and needed a constant diet of new information and added distractions to keep him occupied.

As he grew, he developed a keen sense of what was right and what was wrong. He cannot abide any form of injustice (I can't think where he gets that from) and if he is able too, he will try to amend the reason for it, too benefit those affected.

I remember once when he was in primary school being retold a story by one of the classroom assistance about his attitude towards one such incident.

During break, he had become aware of an incident against another child and in his effort to make this right, the playground assistant had misinterpreted his actions and had told him off and had sent him indoors.

When the classroom assistant went to check on him, she found him sitting crossed legged, with his hands palms up, with his middle finger and thumb touching. The assistant (who knew him very well) asked him what he was doing. To which he responded “I'm meditating.”

He was seven.

When I first heard that story, I started to wonder, if, he was in fact, the 15th Dalai Lama. It still makes me chuckle when I think about him sitting there like that, as I have absolutely no idea were he had ever come across any one in the lotus position or how on earth he knew what meditating was?

It was beyond me.

He has just started secondary school, which he was ready for. Being a September baby (like me), he was always the eldest in his class and often felt the weight of it. After a minor struggle to get him accepted into the school of his choice, he was excited about his new beginning. I was concerned about his two bus journey to and from the school, so over the Summer I prepared him and when the start date arrived on his twelfth birthday in early September, he was was so ready, that he hardly slept the night before and appeared in full uniform at the foot of my bed an hour before we were due to get up. It was priceless.

I mentally closed my eyes and held my breath and sent him off to school and his new beginning. I am very proud to say, he made it and has taken it all in his stride like a duck takes to water.

With his new school came new rules and regulations to be adhered too. One was the signing of his homework book. He is required to obtain my signature on a weekly basis as a sign of my parental responsibility that he has completed his homework. If he fails to obtain this, he will be given a detention as a punishment.

A few weeks ago he returned home from school and announced to me that he was cross with me because I had forgotten to sign his homework book and he had subsequently been given a detention. I pointed out to him that he did need to remind me that I had to sign his book. He agreed and the matter wasn't discussed any further.

A few days later he returned home from school and told me that he had taken the science lesson that day. He was beaming and so was I and here is why.

On the day of the detention, he is required to sit in a classroom with other children who had also fallen foul to its imprisonment for one reason or another.

He tells me that they were all situated in a one of the science classrooms. The other children are all mucking about, which he is so affronted by and that he ignores them and instead spends the half an hour reading a poster on the wall of the classroom that lists The Five Kingdoms of life on earth. No I didn't know either. Apparently this is a classification system that lists the five forms of life on the planet. Here they all are: Monera, Protists, Fungi, Plants and Animals.

The detention ends.

The following day he has a science lesson and the question put to the class by their teacher is, can anyone name the Five Kingdoms. The only respondent to this question is my son. He duly raises his hand and then reels off the five he has stored in his memory and during the course of which, his teacher asks him to come to the front of the class and explain it all to his fellow classmates, which he does.

I am so proud and all the guilt I had felt by not signing his homework book vanishes as I realise that if I had done so, he would never had used his time wisely to acquire this knowledge.

I also realise, as I have always suspected, that my son is an ingenious little genius that will go far.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Kindness of Strangers? By Holly Searle

Many years ago when I couldn't have been more than ten, I set off from my home on my own to attend a birthday party I had been invited to by one of the girls in my class.

I was relatively new at the school and was keen to be assimilated into the social network of my peers. I was late. Being a novice navigator, I proceeded in the right direction and to the address not too far from my own, with the knowledge that this was where the party was being held. So you can imagine my panic when I reached the address I had thought that the party was being held at, only to discover that it wasn't there at all and was in fact being held in another location that I had no installed GPS awareness of.

After being informed by the door answerer to my knock, that the party was elsewhere, I crossed the road and stood alone in a state of distress, wondering where on earth the place I was now on the way to actually was.

At that moment a car pulled up and the lady driving learnt over the passenger seat of her car and asked me if I knew the location of a place she was trying to find.

As I was quite new to the area (and as I was having my own onward journey issues myself) I informed her that I had no knowledge of the place that she was asking about.

She asked me where I was going and being a trusting soul, I told her of my plight. At once she asked me if I wanted a lift as she knew where the place I was trying to find was. Call it intuition if you will, but a klaxon sounded in my mind and I declined her offer straight away. She was quite insistent and asked me if I was sure as she repeated her offer once again. I stuck to my guns and refused. Eventually she drove off and I asked in a local shop for directions and made my own way there. I arrived safe and sound, but a little shaken due to my haste and initial confusion, but more so because of this offer.

Fast forward twelve years and I am sitting at a bus stop in Battersea. I am all polished and dressed up having spent the morning acting as a bod in a photo shoot for a friends brother. I am well versed in the art of both as my mother is a well known model agent and my siblings and I have been the subject of photo shoots and random faces in crowds on film sets for years.

I am dressed smartly, not my usual attire, but as I said, it was a requirement of the favour. I am growing tired of waiting for the bus to arrive as a red convertible sports car approaches with a fit Chelsea type at the wheel. He pulls over and asks me if I would like a lift. I decline. He asks me if I am sure? I affirm my first response and he drives away.

I often wonder if I had accepted either one of those offers how they might have affected my life.

Women, I have concluded, rarely harm children in that way (abet Hindley and West of course). So in all probability, she was just being kind and offering a helping hand to a deluded and somewhat stressed ten year old. I could have accepted her offer and arrived at the party earlier and in a less frantic state of being. But, I chose otherwise.

He, Mr. Sloane, may well have been my knight in shining (sports car) armour.

He may have asked me out on a date and changed my life completely in the process. But then again, Ted Bundy wasn't an unattractive man, but nevertheless one that lured women into a false sense of security and ended their lives in the process.

Both of these incidents have nagged away at me over the years and appear to have resurfaced in my brain in view of the events concerning the unequivocal abuse of power by a celebrity in clear view of a patriarchal institution and society.

Sometimes those that aren't strangers are the ones we should all be aware of.

Most personalable crimes are committed by a person known to the victim. Think of all the horrendous crimes that have been the feature of many a news report during the course of this year alone. Some of most horrific ones were against children, a majority of which had been carried out by an assailant known to the victim of the crime. However, a minority was carried out by strangers.

Strangers are people we do not know until we know them and we should never forget that.

Even if they appear on your television screen every week and do good deeds, this is no guarantee that as an individual they are trustworthy. I do not doubt for one moment, hand on heart, that both as a child and as an adult I made the right decisions in turning down both of those offers. For if I had accepted either, I may be telling you a very different set of stories or I may have not been here to tell you any at all.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Slow Hand Clap By Holly Searle

I must say I was quite impressed with Ed Milliband's speech this week. I was probably more impressed by the fact that he delivered it without referring to his notes or hiding behind a lecture like some stuffy salesman at a conference delivering his annual address, oh hang on a minute.

Just like a business man desperate for investment in his company, Mr. Milliband's speech was constructed to carefully hit upon and deal with all the hot topics that are affecting a high percentage of most of us in the UK.

I sat and watched it all, live from beginning to the end and even though I wanted to believe in everything he had to say (as he pretty much read my mind on all of my concerns), there was something niggling away in the back of my mind that was preventing me from jumping up and down on the sofa and whooping with joy like a pint-sized Scientologist.

And this is what it was.

Trust. It is as simple as that.

All business men with a new idea want you to invest in them. Why? Because they need your support to enable them to doff the cap of power and more importantly, they need your money in order to do so. But, as one nation, it would appear that we have learnt to be self-sufficient in view of the mistrust we now have of those the divided majority decided to invest their trust in.

A litany of the most contemptible lies have been exposed of those who had made similar promises and who have since been seen to reel in their fishing lines from which a tasty worm once wriggled.

Sometimes the word sorry just doesn't cut it I am afraid.

All business men, not unlike a professional Gigolo, will tell you exactly what you want to hear so that you'll be so overwhelmed and charmed that you'll believe them and therefore invest in what they have on offer, provided of course that they deliver the goods.

Imagine if you will that you are one of the dragons off of Dragon's Den and some investment hungry person is standing before you. They need you to assist them further to enable their product or scheme to become a reality. They are confident and the product appears investment worthy. You rub your chin whilst thinking about what is on offer, but as you are being asked to invest your time and money in them, you have to ask yourself this question. What are the possibilities of this actually working and will I see a healthy return if I do invest?

Well that was how I should imagine the majority of us felt. We are all suspicious and skeptical about investing further in yet another ideology as the one laid out in Mr. Milliband's speech. We are all interested, but as yet not quite convinced.

And here's why.

I have never voted Tory, well a part from Boris. Yes, okay, but I would defend that action in view of his persona more than anything else. He is a court jester, the perfect host for the city of my birth and personality counts for a lot.

Mr. Milliband should take note as he is a tad hard to warm towards. Although having said that, there is only so much high jinx we can all stomach from the entertainment before yearning for an intelligent discussion of the serious issues facing our nation without being faced with someone who will not answer the questions that are put to them, without trying to derail you with yet another yawn-worthy verbal sight of hand.

It's boring Boris.

There is a void within the social structure of this country and yes, I know that he touched upon that, but touching the void has been so remiss for so long, that the people of this country have lost faith that bridging the gap will ever be possible.

The reality of what actually happens in society and what is actually done about it, is huge and it is getting worse because some Etonian posh boy and his pals have been unashamedly delusional in their interpretation of how to solve it. Something is now so wrong in the state of Denmark, that we need someone who will actually listen to those that need to be heard.

The most inspiration aspect of those that inhabit our country despite it all, has been their capacity be seen to be doing what they do best in times of adversity by standing up and being counted and taking part.

This has been the most incredible year for the UK and regardless of all the trouble and woes we all have. Like children from a broken home, we all got up, took part, volunteered, helped out and cheered and waved our little flags because we still have faith in ourselves if no one else. It was and continues to be a display social solidarity not seen in the UK during or in the aftermath of the Second World War that makes us all worthy individuals.

You can call it Blitz spirit if you like, but I like to think of it as a communal anti-apathy ingrained in all of us entwined with a desire to be seen at our best.

By doing so, we did a very important thing, we highlighted the diabolical actions of those that govern us.

And Mr. Milliband has realised that or has he? I have seen The Thick Of It and find it hard to place my faith and trust in any politician.

In Peter Pan, in order to save Tink, Peter asks that everyone who believes in faeries to clap their hands. Many clapped and some didn't and beasts hissed, Barrie writes. and that is how I feel. I want to believe in faeries and I want to clap, but until I have retreated to the back of the den to discuss my investment further with the rest of the dragons, the jury, I am afraid, is still out.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

No Award Could Top That By Holly Searle

I was a lost child at school, an invisible girl who was overlooked largely due to an oversight of the educational system I was in.

Unlike today, I obviously had a form of dyslexia that meant that I was unable to keep up. I shall never forget sitting in my bedroom on a weekly basis learning my ten spellings and then being made to stand up in English the following day and being subjected to ridicule by my teacher Miss Jones.

Today this wouldn't be allowed and I would have been offered some form of assistance instead of being made to feel bad by an adult that should really have known better. The memory of those events scarred me for life. I still hesitate now even when attempting to pronounce a word I am unfamiliar with, let alone trying to spell it.

I also had issues with numbers. I just couldn't see words or numbers in my mind. Even now I have to remember what a word looks like and I have to ask someone to slow down when they give me a telephone number or a set figure.

As a result of this, I was deemed unworthy of sitting O Levels and placed in the classes heading towards taking CSE's.

I wasn't of interest to anyone at school, but do recall quite clearly being questioned by an English teacher as to who the author of a poem I produced was. I explained that it was me, but he still questioned me.

I can honestly say that if it had not of been for Camilla Birkett, my last English teacher at secondary school, I would quite possibly have remained redundant on the reading and writing front for the rest of my life.

She was the first person whom instilled in me the love of reading and writing and for that I shall be forever grateful.

I was such a late educational bloomer, that I had no idea near to leaving school what this place called university was.

All of my friends were off there and I just looked at the ground and kicked a stone and felt ashamed.

Fast forward ten years. I am a single parent to Child One and we are at last settled in a home of our own after two years of being homeless.

I ask myself the question “So, what are you going to do now?” My response to this is to return to education where I will spend the most enjoyable following five years of my life gaining A Levels and a Degree.

I am the first member of my family to achieve this honour and for that, I am very proud of myself. I worked several part time jobs whilst studying and juggled single parenthood. Times were hard and if the purse hadn't of been so empty, I would have continued for as long as I could have done along that magical path of further enlightenment.

But let me tell you this, even though I was immensely proud to have gained this honour, I was even prouder to have been in receipt of the recognition that was bestowed upon me by Child One for the following.

During my first year at university I arrived one afternoon to a film lesson to sit an exam. The lecture room was packed with my fellow students and they were all chatting about their worries and concerns regarding the visual exam we were all about to take. I am a rather stoic person and tend to deal with exams as they unfold. I never saw the point in getting too stressed about it and more than anything, I looked upon them as a challenge.

I had also been lucky enough to have had a previous tutor who give me the following piece of advice. “Whatever you do, don't stop writing during an exam. If you keep writing, ideas with turn up, so don't stop.

The exam began. We watched the opening sequence of Don't Look Now and were then given a set amount of time to write down everything that came to mind about the piece of film we had just viewed.

Head down, pen poised, off I went. I kept writing until the time was up.

When we had all finished I thought as I always did, that I had done as well as I could. I didn't think that I had done particular well, but I was pleased with the attempt that I had made.

The following week when we all returned, our tutor Leon dealt with the results of the exam first. We all waited. He said that overall he was very pleased and informed us that a majority had gained a C for their effort with some being awarded B's, but that one person had received an A. My friend Simon sitting next to me said “I wonder who that is?” I said “Me too!”.

I sat there waiting and waiting. I kept thinking he has forgotten me. Then after he had handed out everyone else's, he finally focussed his attention on me. He said that I had been awarded the A. I remember blushing quite profusely as everyone looked at me while my friend Simon elbowed me. I didn't know what to do, or where to look. I felt like I had just won an Oscar.

When I got home I retold this story to Child One. She laughed with delight.

A few weeks later I attended Parent's Evening at her school. As I waited for my allotted slot to see her teacher, I looked through her work. I was overwhelmed with pride as I always was at the amount of dedication and effort that she had applied to each piece. There was a story we had talked about, a picture she had drawn and pages about topics she had been working on. Then I turned the page and saw a balloon diagram. Each balloon had a title attributed to it like My Pets Name Is in which she had written her answer. I read each one with a huge smile on my face until I reached one that was entitled I Was Proud When in which she had written “ My Mum got an A.”

My throat suddenly became constricted and tears filled my eyes. I was an emotional wreck.

Although I have those A Levels and a Degree, those five words will always be worth more to me than any award I have or shall ever receive because they were given to me by my little girl.

Education gave up on me, but I didn't give up on it. Never give up if you believe in something and if someone believes in you, as it is worth its weight in gold in the end and more balloons than those that lifted that little house in UP.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Why Human Error Is A Bit Like A Game Of Subbuteo By Holly Searle

For imperfect cousins everywhere.

Let's face it, if Feargal Sharkey had been paying attention during his game of Subbuteo against his perfect cousin Kevin, he may well have won the game if only he'd have been aware of the fact that Kevin had "flicked the kick" without him knowing and therefore had cheated his way to victory.

Human error is a bit like that isn't it? People who aren't paying attention miss what is important and by doing so, often pave the way for an event to unfold that quite frankly could have been avoided if only they had been more on the ball (did you see what I did there).

We see it everyday without fail, but it is usually obscured by the actual event itself. When the dust settles and Columbo finally arrives late (held up no doubt due to human error) he traces the reasons for the event back to the actual root cause. Nice one. By doing so, he not only solves the case but also dispels the thoughts of those he has been investigating that he was just some fool in a dirty raincoat.

There is a great children's book by David McKee called Who Is Mrs Green? that does exactly that. A series of consequential events that are traced back to the misbehaving antics of one Mrs Green and her trip trapping high heels. Because she wakes her neighbour in the early hours, he then vents his anger and frustration on another and than that person does the same and so on and so forth throughout the course of the day that follows on from her initial thoughtless action. If you have children (or even if you don't) it is well worth tracking down a copy and having a read as it is quite thought provoking as so many of David McKee's books are.

Just like in the game of Subbuteo, in life we are governed by rules. Parameters are set out for us, that are there to ensure we don't make mistakes. But unfortunately we live in a world where these are sometimes overlooked because we are just flawed human beings or like cousin Kevin, we just choose to overlook the rules because we can't be bothered to abide by them.

And it seems to me that as a race, we either committee errors because we do not communicate properly with one another or because we are under pressure to deliver something that due to a set of circumstances is impossible to achieve or because we simply do not listen.

A friend and I had a conversation about it all recently and he retold a story to me in which two planes had crashed on the runway they were both about to take off from, due to the fact that the pilot was under pressure to return home for his anniversary party.

The circumstances in which this terrible accident took place were also blighted by bad weather conditions and miscommunication, but the root cause was human error.

My friend concluded that occurrences like this had to take place to enable the fact that they would never happen again.

It is a shame though that so many people suffer to enable these measures to be enforced so that they do not happen again in the future to another bunch of innocent souls. But maybe that is why To err is human, to forgive is divine.

But those are big things, news making incidents that we all collectively share in together. It is the small stuff you have to be aware of.

On the day to day agenda of our lives we encounter and are effected by the errors of others. Be it at work or play, we all fall victim to them. I used to get all het up about it, but now I just try and trace it back to its root cause and weigh up the stress I am prepared to endure or pass on for the benefit of my health. I sometimes feel like Columbo when I am doing this but without the dirty raincoat.

And even though I am more like Feargal than Kevin (as are my family and friends) I am well aware of those that "flicked the kick" and those that do not in this live game of Subbuteo we are all involved in to enable a more durable and productive version of the society I live in.