God knows there’s a heaven, God knows it’s out of sight

LAST week Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK is a Christian country “and we should not be afraid to say so”.
In a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the prime minister called for a revival of traditional Christian values to counter Britain’s “moral collapse”.
“We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so,” he told the audience at Christ Church.
“What I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today,” he added.
So is Mr Cameron right to align the UK as a country of believers of an invisible man in the sky and his divine son, who rose from the dead and walked on water?
Or is he just re-treading the same political road of former Tory Prime Minister John Major and his ill-fated “Return to Victorian values” of 20 years ago?
In the 2011 census 59% of residents of England and Wales described themselves as Christian when asked “What is your religion?” This was down from 72% in 2001. In Scotland, the figure was 54%, down from 65%.
Although the total number of Britons who described themselves as Christian had fallen by more than four million since 2001, the fact it constitutes a majority is “really, really significant”, said Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod, the highest governing body of the Church of England.
But Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, says the census question is “flawed” because it assumes the respondent has a religion in the first place. The 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey reported that 48% of respondents claimed they did not belong to any religion. The proportion of people who described themselves as belonging to the Church of England was just 20%, down from 40% in 1983.
“‘Any politician or government that tried to make Christianity and Christian beliefs the foundation of British values or social morality would be building on seriously unstable foundations,” says Copson.
And there lies the nub of it.
For all Christians their holy book the Bible is their foundation.
Most Christians believe the Bible is a direct communication from God to man.
But in reality the Bible is a man-made collection of mythology. It was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God. The Bible, as we know it, was voted to be the word of God by a group of men during the 4th century.
Constantine the Great (274-337 AD), who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire. Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.
Emperor Constantine offered the various leaders money to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word of God. The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the “word of God” into existence thereby dismissing any books which created doubt about Jesus being the divine son of God. They didn’t finish editing the “holy” scriptures until the Council of Trent when the Catholic Church pronounced the Canon closed. So the real approving editor of the Bible was not God but Constantine.
So where does that leave Christianity?
Most Christians don’t know why they should believe that the Bible is God’s word. That’s because they’ve been socially and psychologically engineered to assume that it’s a given fact, just like the sky is blue and the grass is green. That’s why in their normal line of thinking they would never question why they should believe that the Bible is God’s word.
One of the main reasons they don’t question the Bible’s divine inspiration upon their conversion into Christianity is due to the incredible promise of eternal life which they are offered for free just for believing. Their left brain never stops to analyse what they’ve been preached.
Preachers and evangelists often use sentiment, emotion and touching stories to convert people, rather than reason.
What followers of Christian fundamentalists don’t know and never realize is: nowhere in the Bible does it claim that all 66 books are God’s word or infallible. The doctrine of Biblical inspiration and infallibility was made up by Christian fundamentalists to create an artificial foundation for their faith.
In fact, many of the authors of the Bible had no idea that their books would be canonized into an “infallible word of God” book. Even in Paul’s epistles, he made it clear that he was writing personal letters, not dictating infallible words from God.
The doctrine of Biblical infallibility was not a central tenet of Christianity until early in the 20th century when the theory of evolution began to be taught as fact in classrooms. It was then that the Christians countered with this doctrine. Not only did it protect Christian tenets from the danger of Darwinist teachings, but it served other purposes as well.
Without the doctrine that the Bible is infallible and that every word of it is of God, it would put question marks on every verse. Anyone could then pick and choose which parts of it they wanted to be God’s word and which they didn’t, and that would greatly undermine the authority of it.
So this doctrine is necessary to keep the religion intact. Otherwise, Christians themselves would not be able to feel secure and confident that every verse in the Bible could be trusted.
Now, compare the man-made origins of Christianity and its various dogmas to the simplicity of Deism. Deism is belief in God based only on reason and the creation itself. It makes no claim to false “revelations” as all of the “revealed” religions do. To Deists, proof of the Designer is in the design.
On May 12, 1797 while living in France famous Deist Tom Paine wrote the following letter to a Christian friend who was trying to convert Paine to Christianity:
“By what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Muslims calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law.
“The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave.
“It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No.
“Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’t is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know Moses was not an impostor?
“For my own part, I believe that all are impostors who pretend to hold verbal communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and must answer for it in the same manner.
“It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’
“That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.
“What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico.
“This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case.
“In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all. In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit.
“As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the case.
“You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New.
“My disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it.”

Here comes the story of the Hurricane… the man the authorities came to blame

IT’S been a few days since the death of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the American boxer whose wrongful murder conviction was the subject of the amazing Bob Dylan song ‘Hurricane’.
And it’s been a few days to assimilate what his death means to me as a passionate devotee of Dylan’s music.
‘Hurricane’ was the stand-out song on Dylan’s 1975 album Desire, one I have played hundreds of times and used in school lessons to highlight racial prejudice and the injustice of the US judicial system.
For me, Carter and Dylan will always be inseparable.
Rubin Carter, who had prostate cancer, died in his sleep at home in Toronto, last Sunday, aged 76.
He spent a quarter of his life in prison for three murders he did not commit. His imprisonment also ended a promising boxing career.
Carter’s nightmare dates back to the night of 16 June 1967, when three white people were gunned down at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.
Moments later, hometown boxer Rubin Carter and his friend John Artis were pulled over by the police, who took the two men to a nearby hospital to see if one of the dying men could ID Carter and Artis as the gunmen. The victim did not.
Within weeks the Grand Jury investigating the Lafayette murders declined to indict either man.
But three months later, career criminal Alfred Bello, who had been lurking around the Lafayette on the night of 16 June, and was looking for leniency from police, told prosecutors he could identify the two black men as the killers.
On 27 May 1967, with no motive offered by prosecutors, Artis and Carter were convicted on three counts of murder by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison.
“How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.”

Eight years later in 1975, Rubin Carter sent Bob Dylan a copy of his autobiography The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to #45472.
Dylan visited Carter in prison within a month of receiving the book.
“The first time I saw him, I left knowing one thing … I realized that the man’s philosophy and my philosophy were running down the same road, and you don’t meet too many people like that,” said Dylan in a later interview.
And so the song was born.
Within a few days of the meeting Dylan sat down with producer Jacques Levy and the two men quickly penned ‘Hurricane’.
Part protest song, part historical document, Dylan’s eight-minute epic reads like a legal brief, as the singer punches holes in the prosecutor’s Lafayette killings case, spitting out the lyrics with passion and contempt.
After attorneys at Dylan’s label, Columbia Records, asked for slight changes in the song to avoid possible lawsuits, ‘Hurricane’ was quickly shipped out to radio, where it received heavy airplay.
Dylan also featured the song heavily in his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, which made a stop at the New Jersey prison where Carter was held to show their support.
The Revue, which featured Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Mick Ronson, Allen Ginsberg and Roberta Flack, went on to play massive benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden and the Houston Astrodome to raise funds for Carter’s legal defence.
After Dylan played ‘Hurricane’ on virtually every date of his Rolling Thunder tour, Carter’s incarceration became an unavoidable subject of national discussion.
It also intertwined Dylan and the song permanently with Carter’s own life and campaign.
But what it didn’t do, was set Carter free.
In 1976, following Bello’s recantation, the initial convictions were overturned; Carter and Artis were given another trial. But they were convicted and imprisoned again.
After nine years of submitting appeals, Carter’s case was finally heard for the first time in a federal court in 1985.
The judge ruled that prosecutors had “fatally infected the trial” by promoting a theory of racial revenge without evidence, and withheld evidence that disproved the witness’s identifications.
“The extensive record clearly demonstrates that the petitioners’ convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure,” the judge said.
The convictions were overturned on constitutional grounds and Carter was set free. (Artis had been released on parole four years earlier.) The charges were formally dismissed in 1988.
But ‘Hurricane’ wasn’t just a legal brief set to music.
It’s also a great song, a musical freight train that picks up terrifying speed and fury as it roars down the track.
In its unapologetic anger, it remains reminiscent of songs Dylan had written in the early 1960s.
Perhaps it was closest to “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” about a poor Baltimore maid who died after a rich drunken white man William Zanzinger hit her with his cane. Zanzinger was jailed for just six months.
After his release, Rubin Carter moved to Toronto and became active around issues of inequality in the criminal justice system.
He founded Innocence International in 2004 and published a second autobiography, Eye of the Hurricane: My Path From Darkness to Freedom in 2011 with a foreword by Nelson Mandela.
In 1999, he was portrayed by Denzel Washington in Norman Jewison’s film The Hurricane.
Rubin Carter remained active in criminal justice causes until the end of his life.
In February this year, he wrote a column for the New York Daily News campaigning for the exoneration of a Brooklyn man David McCallum who has spent nearly three decades in prison on murder charges.
“If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised,” he wrote.
“In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.”
Hurricane: https://vimeo.com/53933900

Poison Chapter 5

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
Chapter Five

IN the kitchen of 24 Severn Avenue, Amy was making baked beans on toast for her two unexpected visitors.
“Typical kids, thinking they can survive on chocolate fingers and jelly beans,” she mused.
Amy had known TJ since college and they had become best friends. But while Amy happily worked her time in the bar of a local restaurant, TJ enveloped her life in environmental action and saving endangered animals, such as the orang-utans in the picture that Nathan had shown her.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Rainbow Warriors and Wildlife Action, TJ had joined just about every environmental action group going. She was a real hero in Amy’s eyes.
“But,” thought Amy, “TJ made some nasty enemies.”
She buttered the toast and spooned the beans on top.
“How much should I tell them?” Amy wondered.
In the living room the two boys had the same thoughts about how much they needed to let TJ’s friend know.
“Tea-time!” yelled Amy, and she was soon joined in the small kitchen by two smiling young boys.
“Wash your hands first!” she ordered, “And if you eat all the beans, there is a surprise for pudding!”
After a hearty tea and a surprise of chocolate muffins and custard, the trio sat down in the front room to talk…. but only after Amy had drawn the curtains closed.
“Why have you shut the curtains?” asked Joe, “It’s sunny outside!”
“Just in case we are being watched,” answered Amy nervously.
They all looked nervously at each other.
Amy nodded and sipped at a cup of coffee.
Nathan began to tell what he knew of TJ’s disappearance and her mysterious life-threatening condition.
He pulled out a scribbled hand-written note, and explained he had received it in the post three weeks ago, along with the photo of TJ and the red ape.
He was relieved that on school days he usually got the post first or his dad might have asked some awkward questions.
But Nathan had not recognised the stamps on the envelope it came in. He told Amy it was “foreign” and the postmark bore the name Kuching.
The note told Nathan that his sister was seriously ill in hospital after being attacked while trying to save two baby orang-utans.
She was in a deep coma and only one thing could bring her out of the coma, and maybe then she could tell them all what happened.
The writer needed Joe to milk a small amount of venom from his brother’s Green Tree Viper – “he knows how to do it safely” said the note – and take the vial of venom to an address in London.
But the note went on to say that under no circumstances must either Nathan or Joe tell their parents, nor the police, or TJ could die.
“There are other people trying to find her first,” it added.
The note was signed by Joe’s brother Sam.
He had added a PS saying he would join them as soon as he could.
“Where’s the envelope now?” asked Amy.
“Sorry, I think I threw it in the kitchen bin,” answered Nathan.
Amy moved across to a small desk and switched on an old PC.
Once logged in she Googled the word Kuching.
“My God,” she exclaimed, “It is the capital of Sarawak in Borneo… that’s where orang-utans live…. TJ was always going on about wanting to go there.”
Amy froze and put her right hand to her forehead.
“Now something is beginning to make sense,” she muttered.
“What do you mean?” asked Joe.
Amy explained that she had received two strange mobile text messages from TJ a few weeks earlier, saying she was going on a potentially dangerous mission to help save some endangered animals.
She added that TJ and Sam had been “a bit of an item” for the past six months and were “almost inseparable”.
They said they were going abroad together for a short holiday.
Amy had suggested Tenerife, but TJ had winked and said: “No, someplace else.”
“Urgh gross!” exclaimed Joe, “Your sister and my brother… bet they’ve been snogging!”
“Yuk!” retorted Nathan, poking his tongue out.
“But,” said Amy, “There is something which is now worrying me a lot.”
She told the boys how, about a week ago, she had answered the door to a tall blonde haired man, with steely grey eyes and a deep tan, who said he was a friend of TJ’s and she had asked him to fetch a bag from her room.
“He was quite convincing and nice at first, but I wouldn’t let him in, because I saw another man watching us from a black car across the road, and something did not seem right,” said Amy.
“He became quite angry and told me if I knew what was good for me I would get the bag for him.
“I slammed the door in his face and watched him cross the road and get into the black car with the other man and drive away.
“He had a European accent,” she added suddenly, “Sort of German or maybe Austrian.”
By now Amy was shaking and started to cry.
“I have been really frightened and was going to ring the police, but later that day I got this phone call on my mobile telling me if I told anyone about the visit I would not see TJ again.”
Amy was now in floods of tears and between sobs muttered in frightened tones: “How did he know my mobile number?”
Nathan and Joe sidled up either side of her on the sofa and the three cuddled close.
“I haven’t left the house… but I have seen the car and the blonde haired man in the street every day since then.”
“But where is the bag?” asked Nathan.
Amy reached under the sofa and pulled out a small blue denim handbag.
“I think this is maybe it,” she said.

Back at Greenfield Mansion, Felicity was hurrying across the grass towards her studio with a flustered and red faced Bob beside her, carrying her easel and painting gear.
“It is unlike Nicolas to be so worried,” she said as she allowed Bob to put her painting things away while she tripped through the scullery door.
Ignoring Joy, who was ironing a pile of boy’s jeans and T shirts, Felicity walked towards the drawing room.
“Oh Nicolas, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting… whatever is it?” she asked.
Nicolas got up from the Chesterfield, smiled wanly and explained his afternoon discoveries.
“Oh my Lord!” responded Felicity.
“I have not seen Nathan at all today, and come to think of it, have not seen Joe since breakfast… and Bob says neither he, Helen nor Joy have seen him either.”
Nicolas held Felicity’s hand and quietly but purposefully said: “I think this maybe more serious than I first thought!”
The two parents looked worryingly into each other’s eyes.
Felicity blinked first.
At that moment Bob reappeared at the drawing room door.
“Ma’am, there is the young Mr Anthony Woodward to see you… he’s says it’s urgent,” said the butler.
Felicity and Nicolas turned as the strapping and dashingly handsome Tony Woodward strode into the room.
“Your ladyship,” he exclaimed, ignoring the presence of Nicolas.
“I am so sorry to bother you, but Clara did not turn up for her violin lesson this morning and I can’t get any reply to calls I have made to her mobile phone.”
“But,” said Lady Greenfield, “I thought she was having cello lessons?”
“Oh, sorry,” replied Tony, “I meant cello, just a slip of the tongue,” he lied, blushing.
There was a silence.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Lady Greenfield. “Follow me….”
Felicity, Nicolas, Tony and Bob the butler together hurried into the main hallway and up a flight of stairs to the first landing.
The first bedroom they visited was that of a small boy, littered with toys and computer games, with a large drum kit standing in the corner.
Felicity glanced around and exclaimed: “Well, the only things missing are my son’s GI Joe bag… and my son!
“And possibly this torch,” she added, holding the silvered flashlight in her left hand.
The four adults ventured across the landing to a much larger bedroom.
On the unmade bed was a Jack Wills clothing catalogue, an array of designer blouses and jeans and a small pink mobile phone flashing and making a pinging sound.
Tony picked up the phone and clicked it open.
“Blimey!” he started, and blushing red again added: “Didn’t realise I had sent her quite so many text messages and calls today!”
“So,” said Lady Greenfield, “We are now missing two young boys and my daughter Clara!”
“And I believe the wolf Blue,” interrupted Bob, “None of the staff have seen the animal since this morning!”

Some hours later at 24 Severn Avenue, Amy tucked Nathan and Joe into the double bed in TJ’s room.
The boys looked exhausted, but she was glad of their company.
She peered out through the bedroom curtains.
The pair of curious brown eyes had departed the street to a bed and breakfast nearby.
But two sinister grey eyes still watched the house from behind the steam of a Chinese takeaway in the front driver’s seat of the black BMW car.
And from under the laurel bush the piercing green eyes watched everything.

Poem: Salvation

In my time of regret and hatred
I can feel your presence near
Like Daniel in the lion’s den
You banish all my fear
My conscience choked by memory
The cancer eats my soul
Like Thomas I doubt my vision
But you make my spirit whole
Pride and prejudice both look down
Upon my fallen sins
I caste my eyes around me
And hear the sound of violins

When the sun goes down upon me
You forgive my last mistake
Like Cain I contemplate this chain
Of events that I must break
My life wrapped up in danger
In the darkness of the night
I struggle blindly on this path
Still learning wrong from right
Pride and prejudice both look down
Upon my fallen sins
I caste my eyes around me
And hear the sound of violins

There’s a dying voice within me
Like the trumpets of the kings
I lie down by calm waters
And let my dreams have wings
I gaze at the last temptation
Of a forgotten memory
In the last dance of loneliness
I see it’s only me
Pride and prejudice both look down
Upon my fallen sins
I caste my eyes around me
And hear the sound of violins

So onward on this journey
To the top of the wondrous hill
Like Judas I paid my penalty
For the betrayal of life’s goodwill
And now I climb still further
Discovering the dreams I lost
My faith it stands beside me
As I no longer count the cost
Pride and prejudice both look down
Upon my fallen sins
I caste my eyes around me
And hear the sound of violins

I’m down on my luck and I’m black and blue

OVER the past six months I have written a series of introspective pieces about my own life trials and tribulations. It was been necessarily therapeutic and cathartic but at other times just navel gazing!
Yes, I have become a bit wrapped up in myself.
Then last week I received a surprise email from an old friend and colleague which snapped me out of self-pity and allowed me to focus on someone else.
It was the shock I needed.
I have known Mark for about eight years. We worked alongside each other and I respected him as a bright and intuitive journalist and a razor sharp writer. But more than that, he became a good friend and personal confidante.
He moved away in 2009 to work for another newspaper group in the south of England and our contact sadly became sporadic.
He had almost dropped off my radar until last summer.
Following my break-down and decision to quit newspaper journalism, Mark was one of the first people to offer to write me a personal reference.
His testimonial was amazing. His words made me believe in myself once again, when my life was at its lowest: “Nic Outterside is cut from a different class when it comes to editors. Meeting and working for Nic gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.”
I was humbled, gobsmacked and thanked him profusely.
He told me he was no longer enjoying newspaper journalism and was looking at other options. We promised to keep in better touch with each other.
But once again he quickly seemed lost from my radar.
And I have only just found out why!
I will let Mark’s own words tell what happened; the trauma he has endured and thankfully survived:
“The last eight months have been a bit of a blur. Things had been going downhill for a while with work, in that they were flogging me to death and I just took more and more on. It was 12 hour days, no breaks, abuse, all sorts. People around me were having breakdowns, ill health, just plain walking out, and I did what I had always done and simply absorbed as much as possible.
Given that I could do the job, more got piled on me, and one Saturday September morning at the local magistrates’ court, picking up the first appearance of an alleged rapist, I suddenly blacked out, collapsed down a flight of stairs, shattered my collarbone, lacerated my face and was knocked clean out. Initially the doctors thought I had brain damage due to an episode from the force of the fall.
I spent a week in hospital having all sorts of tests, scans etc. Then I had surgery on my shoulder and four pins and plate inserted. I wanted to go home so they eventually relented and let me out about a week later, went back to my folks, I’ve never been in so much pain in all my life. My shoulder, back, and god knows what else that was battered as a result of going down something like 20 metal steps was excruciating, every single day.
Nightmares about falling were waking me up, then waking up and crying out in pain because I was rooted to the bed. It was horrid. Had to go back to the hospital for months and months of tests, CT scans, sleep deprivation analysis, physio, trauma, polytrauma, speech and language therapy – I was unable to talk properly, and have had severe memory problems.
The day itself was wiped clean from my head, I can remember very little, even from before. Except for the fact I hadn’t slept the night before, which was pretty much the pattern of the prior six months, no sleep, little food. Not being able to remember life events, words, my vocabulary was shocking, and I was shaking as I was walking. It was horrible, and must have been quite scary for the people around me – I recall very little, and the process of recovery has been akin to waking from a bad dream.
Meanwhile I was applying for jobs. But nothing really happened. The doctors obviously didn’t want me anywhere near work given I was going to hospital still two/three times a week.
Then I launched myself into a period of rehab, started doing whatever I could at home, weights, running etc. It was painful at first, but really did help me mentally start to recover. One by one the hospital classes stopped, and now it’s just a case of going back every so often for checkups.
I was at the end of what I could take with newspapers, the old paper is still driving people into the ground, with two or three people leaving every month, shocking stuff.
I wasn’t sure what the future held, but have moved into an area where I can still investigate stories, still dig into things, and it’s interesting. I went for several interviews – including a press officer job at the Home Office – while still in the sling, with my face still a mess of bruises and swelling, that’s how desperate I was to get out.
Then this job came up, I had to go for three interviews, but they seemed to not really care about the obvious injuries, just that I seemed the right man for the job, and they had plans for me.
So now I live and work in London for an amazing online publication. I find it very interesting, the pace is slow, but I am working on some very big stories, with a lot of time to properly research, there’s travel, and I seem to have landed on my feet. Whereas I was being screamed at for six or seven leads a day, and then told they were all shit, I now have time for a break, work on one investigative piece a day, and leave work behind at the end of each day.
I have gone from one of the worst lows of my life, I didn’t think I would be able to walk properly, talk properly, I had no idea what happened to me to be honest, it was terrifying – to now being in a place where things have completely turned around.
Never thought it could happen – and each day is a blessing. I am sure people look at me like I’m daft, scars over my eyes and can’t fully extend my arm, but I couldn’t be happier. So when you are in the bottom of a very bad funk, in time it will pass.
I never had a news editor that could match your brain for a story, or someone who could make a front page sparkle. Considering I ended up working for three decent regionals I never forgot the man whose hand guided me early on and who looked beyond face value to see there was actually a reporter in there -so believe me, your story isn’t done, and I hope that things start to turn around for you soon.”
Mark, I want to embrace you and tell you that you will always be a special friend. Your story is uplifting in its own right. Your courage and friendship has forced me to look beyond.
Thank you.