“FROM THE DAY WE SAILED THE TITANIC WAS ON FIRE”

A Channel 4 documentary aired on Sunday evening shed a fascinating light on the tragic circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Titanic and the death of 1503 people on that fateful night.

“Titanic – The New Evidence” follows Senan Malony, author of a number of books on the Titanic, as he examined evidence that seems to have been brushed aside for many years which proves that the sinking and the tragic loss of life could have been avoided had the ship’s owners at White Star not been more concerned about financial loss than they were about the lives of all on board.

A raging inferno lasting weeks in the boiler room weakened the hull and the bulkhead which led to the ship sinking after coming into contact with the iceberg. That fire was discovered BEFORE the ship set sale.

The enquiry began after the discovery of a photo album discovered at an auction house. The album contained photographs taken by the ships chief electrical engineer charting the building process and launch of the vessel. On two photographs a distinct mark on the ship’s hull measuring around 30ft long can been seen and this sparked the enquiry.

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Official records from the time show that the day the ship prepared to leave Belfast for Southampton a fire was discovered in a 3 storey high coal bunker in boiler room 6. Dr Guillermo Rein of the Imperial College of London an expert on coal fuelled fires stated the the fire would most likely have been burning for weeks before being discovered. Records show that the bunker had been filled 3 weeks prior to the fire’s discovery and so could well have been burning for that length of time. Fire fighters on board the ship reported that even after 4 days of 11 men fighting the fire it was simply out of control. The ship was launched to set sail for Southampton whilst it was still on fire.

Official reports and accounts from the men on board the ship reveal startling information. They state that White Star top brass told them to “keep your mouths shut” about the fire. Fire fighters and engine room workers report seeing the bulk head, the main safety feature which prevents water flooding the ship in the event of a breach in the hull, glowing red and warping. The black mark on the hull in the image lies directly in front of where boiler room 6 is situated. It seems the heat weakened the steel structure of the hull. One of the survivors, John Dilly, who worked as a stoker on board the ship told a reporter in New York “From the day we sailed, the Titanic was on fire”. Dilly stated that there was “hundreds of tons of coal stored in there… we made no headway against it”. Four days later and the fire was getting worse.

The fire fighters fought the fire on the journey from Belfast to Southampton and were warned by bosses not to utter a word. It seems they were pressured into keeping the fire a secret to avoid people refusing to travel or the journey being delayed. However once the ship was at Southampton only 8 of a crew of over 160 decided to get back aboard Titanic and continue the journey to New York. All but 8 people had to be quickly replaced.

On the 10th April 1912 the Titanic set sail with it passengers from Southampton. Many on board the upper decks were millionaires and members of British aristocracy. The investigation suggests that the owners of the vessel had already suffered delays in the Titanic’s maiden voyage and were fearful of losing money and reputation if they delayed any further to extinguish the fire and repair any damage. They would also have expected passengers to refuse to board had they known about the inferno in the boiler room and so White Star permitted the journey to go ahead regardless. Further reports suggest that substandard steel was used in the construction of the hull when building the Titanic to save money which may also have contributed to the fate of the passengers.

The fire was mentioned in the official inquiry conducted in 1912 by Lord Mersey but wasn’t deemed significant with Lord Mersey dismissing the evidence a number of times and trying to refocus the inquiry towards the excessive speed and iceberg theory we have all been lead to believe.

One fire fighter, Charles Hendrickson, who boarded the Titanic at Southampton to replace one of those who abandoned ship, give evidence to the inquiry and stressed the importance of the fire. He admitted that they didn’t actually start removing coal from the bunker until the day it left Southampton. The only way to deal with the fire was to shovel the already burning coal from the bunker into the engine furnaces. Until this point the fire had simply been burning away causing devastating damage to the ship. It took them a further 3 days to get the fire out. Once the fire was out Hendrickson also claimed that he discovered the metal of the bulkhead was “red hot” and he was instructed to cover the “dented” and “warped” bulkhead with a black oil to make it appear ordinary. Despite these facts Lord Mersey kept trying to move the inquiry along to what he called “the real, serious issues of the inquiry” and he instructed that the fire had nothing to do with it.

The documentary then reveals even more dramatic evidence of a SECOND fire in the neighbouring coal bunker caused by the red hot metal. The fire fighters then had to begin emptying the coal from a second bunker and throw it into the furnace. Malony’s investigation suggests that this could be the reason behind why Captain Smith ploughed on at full speed into the ice field ignoring all warnings. With the UK suffering a minor’s strike and the ship carrying just enough to get them to New York, was Captain Smith worried about running out of coal if he slowed down through the ice field and then loaded up the furnaces again once safely through? If he ran out of coal and became stranded at sea due to insufficient coal reserves what damage would that to do to both the ship company and his own career and reputation? Again, it seems risks were taken to avoid financial loss and damage to reputation.

The evidence uncovered by Malony is indisputable. The Titanic sank due to the fire. Another witness quoted in the programme was Lead Fire Fighter Fred Barrett. He was in boiler room 6 at the time the Titanic struck the ice. He reported afterwards that he had seen the fire damaged bulkhead give way and the sea water came flooding into the ship. That would never have happened had the bulkhead and the hull not been subjected to such intense heat for such a prolonged period of time. Experts using scientific evidence and computer generated reconstructions suggest that had the bulkhead of boiler room 6 held tight the Titanic could have stayed afloat long enough for the rescue ship to reach them. The loss of 1503 lives could have been prevented if the owners of the ship had not valued money more than life.

Titanic – The New Evidence can be seen again on channel 4seven on Thursday at 12:40am or Sunday at 7:00pm

SLIMMING WORLD

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There are hundreds of diets out there these days and for those wanting to lose weight it can quite literally be a mine field of choices between the downright ridiculous and dangerous to the pointless and ineffective and all those in between.

In the last 12-18 months up to November 2016 I had put on some weight and was beginning to feel the effects. Sweating all the time even when doing pretty much nothing. Feeling out of breath when doing something as simple as running up the stairs or moving some barrels in my cellar. A simple task like bending down to fasten my shoe lace was actually an awkward task resulting in me sweating or having to sit up to catch my breath. I began developing symptoms of what I believed at the time was diabetes and so took myself to the doctors for tests. It was here I learned that was was 20 stone and 4lbs! That was the heaviest I had ever been. I had previously gotten up to just below 20 stone but that was whilst training hard and my body fat was measuring at only around 12%. Now I was 20 stone and I dare say my body fat would be measuring in the 20’s too.

In 12-18 months I had gone from wearing 34″ waist jeans to squeezing into 40″ waist jeans. From comfortably wearing an XL shirt to XXXL shirts to fit over my gut. The only place I could find that sold clothes that fit was Jacamo and it wasn’t cheap. Whenever I spoke about my weight to people I was told to “get your arse to the gym”. It’s true that had I joined the gym and began exercising it would have made a difference but the truth of the matter was I had zero energy or motivation to exercise because of how tired and run down I always felt and the health issues I had caused pain. The clothing situation together with the health issues made me decide to get my backside into gear.

My wife had been attending Slimming World meetings for quite some time and she won’t mind me saying that she struggled to keep to it. She would yoyo diet. Lose a pound, gain a pound, stay the same… It wasn’t really working because when she has a big greedy fella at home, two kids, a pub to run and all the other rubbish life throws at us it was all to easy to eat rubbish and forget the diet. Why cook a slimming world meal for herself when me and the kids were ordering a takeaway right? Katie decided she was going to give up Slimming World despite me telling her not to quite and to keep going and so I made her a deal… Stick to it and I will join too!

I don’t think Katie believed me. It was a Friday night and I had had a few beers with friends and customers at our pub. She thought that come weigh-in and group session on Monday I would “wimp out”. But I didn’t. I had decided that I needed to join and I thought if we both stuck to it together then it would make it so much easier for us both.

I have to be honest, I was nervous and without meaning to cause any offence to anybody I had a preconceived idea of what “group” would be like. I know that some men do attend and have had great results but before attending I thought Slimming World was just female orientated and knowing how crabby dieting made Katie at times, the idea of sitting in a room full of dieting crabby women petrified me! However, I bit the bullet (they’re syn free apparently) and Monday morning I attending my first group with Katie.

There was absolutely no awkwardness or reason to be nervous. I was made to feel instantly welcome by Sharon who runs Thirsk Slimming World and equally so by all the other women who attended. My first weigh-in was recorded in my book and then we all sat down whilst Sharon went around the room chatting to each of us about how we had done. One hour later I was out of there with my book of foods I can and can’t eat and information on how to follow the diet.

The more I looked at the book the less I believed it was actually a diet. For a lad who likes his grub the thought of not being able to eat was daunting. However, I was blown away by what I was allowed to eat on the diet. With my allocated 20 syns a day (I can best describe “syns” as the foods that keep you sane and allow you satisfy any cravings and urges but in a regulated way) which I rarely used in the first week I set my mind to it and got through my first week without even really realising I was dieting. The following Monday I couldn’t believe I had lost HALF A STONE! Not only that but in our first week of dieting together Katie had lost the most she had ever lost in one week since she started Slimming World!

Week two went pretty much the same with a 4lb weight loss. Week three saw a 6lb loss and now 8 weeks later with a little gain in the middle I am just 4lb short of being 2 stone lighter! I say that now before I have been weighed after Xmas, I may well be a couple of pound heavier but I can live with that and am now back on the wagon after a day or two of falling off. In the same time my wife has lost almost a stone too so following the diet together, motivating each other and cooking the awesome recipes for the whole family (the kids love them too, especially the Diet Fanta Chicken!) has really paid off.

For anybody wandering whether Slimming World works or for any man put off by the fact that many meetings are predominantly attended by women or who may even be feeling a little embarrassed about attending a slimming group my advice is this…

Forget all that silliness. Think of YOU. Think of your health. Think of how much more energy, confidence and self esteem you would have when you shift some weight. Your mates might tease you for it, some of mine did until they saw they saw how well it was working but they had the same preconceived ideas as I had and that’s why they give me some stick. Take the jokes on the chin and be proud of yourself for actually doing something to improve your health. If I can sacrifice the beer when I am a pub landlord and stick to this diet with the long hours and lifestyle I lead then YOU can do it too!

I have since found out that my health issues ARE most likely weight related and my consultant even advised that I should stick with Slimming World as a lot of her patients have had amazing success with it. Since losing weight I feel so much better already. I have already committed to joining the gym in January too now I have so much more energy.

In a nutshell, if you want to lose weight, improve your health and fitness and are tired of trying to fathom the mine field of diets out there just find your nearest Slimming World group and pop along… It will change your life.

JUST A FEW STEPS AWAY FROM BEING HOMELESS…

Hungry & homeless sign at feet of male beggar, UK

This short story is true. It is a story about how each of us is just a few unfortunate steps away from being left with nothing at all and how we are all vulnerable to homelessness. This incident changed my life in more ways than one. It took place whilst I was serving as a Police Officer and the gentleman’s name has been changed and place names omitted.

John was a career Police Officer with a force I shall not name. He had served as a PC for almost 16 years. He had a wife and 2 young children whom he adored. He was healthy, active and had a blessed life. He owned a 4 bedroomed house with large garden in a nice area and he and his wife drove nice cars. With not a worry or issue in the world he was a lucky man and had a life many would envy.

In 2010 following an incident at work John was injured both physically and mentally. The physical wounds healed very quickly but the psychological wounds never did. He returned to work reluctantly after a short period of sickness. He never liked taking time off and had never had a day’s sick leave in his career and this alone bugged him, but he understood the importance of making sure he was up to doing his duty and returned as soon as he felt physically capable.

After only a few weeks back at work he began to realise he just wasn’t himself both at work and with the public and at home with his family. He wasn’t sleeping well because he would have regular bad dreams and flashbacks to the incident which put him out of work. He was becoming short tempered which was completely not his true self. He became a little reclusive, not wanting to attend family events, not wanting to take the kids out for weekends away or even to the park. The more it went on the more he knew he needed help and that something wasn’t right but he just couldn’t bring himself to ask for help.

One afternoon at work following an argument with a colleague John lost his temper, punched his colleague and damaged a force computer before walking out of the station and going home early. To cut a long story short he was subsequently suspended. Whilst suspended he was pressured into going to the Doctors and seeking help. He was of course diagnosed with depression, post traumatic stress and anxiety and despite the fact he did not want to take medication he was prescribed tablets.

Whilst on suspension and taking his meds he did make a substantial improvement and although not fully his old self, things at home were improving. That was short lived however.

He was taken off suspension and allowed back to work but on advice from his GP and family and friends he took time off sick to try and get back to some “normality”. He was still under investigation by Professional Standards for assaulting his colleague and damaging a computer however they were pursuing misconduct and disciple matters rather than criminal matters given the circumstances (and their negligence with offering him the correct support at the time of his incident and injury).

He ended up being off work for several months and he believed it was his sickness and insistence that PSD did things on his terms for medical reasons that ultimately resulted in him being required to resign from the force. He did so reluctantly and he described it as being the day his life ended.

As time went by and as he struggled like crazy to get another job and keep the family afloat things went from bad to worse. They couldn’t pay bills, they were increasingly in debt, they argued a lot, tensions were running high and he felt all his progress with his depression was going to waste more and more each day.

Eventually his wife and kids left him. He missed mortgage payments and debts were out of control. He lost everything. Within less than 2years John was left broke and homeless. His friends had all but deserted him, his wife wanted nothing more to do with him, he never saw his kids and he ended up living rough or moving from hostel to hostel.

Eventually he ended up in my area living in a tent in some woods next to the motorway. He begged for change and food at a nearby motorway services and used their toilets and showers to keep clean. He learned to catch rabbits for extra food and rainwater for drink. He kept himself to himself and nobody would have had any idea there was a man living in a small wood as they drove by every day.I had no idea myself until a colleague told me and I made it my business to go and visit him and that is how I got to speak with him at length. I would occasionally sneak off without work mates knowing when working single crewed and see if he was around and check how he was doing and sometimes took him a sandwich from morrisons and bottle of water.

He told me one day how he had come to the decision to live in these woods. He had spent months on the streets and in homeless shelters but said that every night he closed his eyes he was scared he would never wake up. He talked of thugs and youths robbing homeless people for what little money or possessions the had. He told me one day he was robbed by 2 teens who even heartless tore a photo of his kids to pieces whilst they laughed and one held a knife. That day he was thrown out of WH Smiths for trying to buy some card and glue to stick his picture back together.

He told me how he had come closer and closer to turning to drink and drugs as the temptation living rough in towns and cities was too much. How he had had to go against every moral fibre in his body and break the law by stealing food, drink and a new sleeping bag to survive. He told me how shops and even fast food venues like Mcdonalds would turn him away as soon as he entered. The final straw was when the Police and Council began targeting the homeless and removing their sleeping bags etc…In his own words

“I never felt so lonely and I was surrounded by thousands of people”.

He knew of my area as he would often visit as a child and so made the decision to travel up by hitch-hiking with friendly wagon drivers. He said one or two even allowed him to sleep in their wagon at night and fed him too. When he arrived in the area he moved from place to place trying to find a nice, quiet and secluded spot to make his “home”. He said he tried half a dozen or so before settling with the woods. He was able to work “cash in hand” as a labourer for a local company for a week which paid him £150. With that money he bought a one man tent, warm clothes and sleeping bag and camping supplies and set about making his camp site home.

John was always very humble, very grateful for any time you would spend talking to him and always politely offered you a brew. He would also turn down any acts of charity and offers of help and said he was used to his little life now and quite enjoyed the peace.

Several months went by without any sign of John and winter was upon us. We were contacted by a hospital ward to ask us to check on his welfare as he had been admitted with various health problems caused by his lifestyle and the cold and he had walked off the ward. For 4 days I visited his camp to see if there had been signs of life. It was blisteringly cold and even in a wool hat, gloves, fleece and body armour I was cold. There was no way John was going to survive nights in this weather and there wasn’t so much as a recent fire at his camp. All his possessions were there but he wasn’t.

It was on the 5th day that news came back to us that John had been found. Upon leaving hospital he had taken what little cash he had and paid for one night in a B&B in a different force area. Whilst there John had seen fit to end his own life and was found the following morning by staff. He had overdosed on heroine.

The news was a massive blow and John’s entire life story impacted me in a way of which, up until hearing the news of his death, I had no idea. His life, I believe, shows just how fragile our lives are. How everything we deem to be important and take for granted can just be pulled away in the space of a few short months and there is nothing you can do about it. How those is desperate need of help can often go unseen and their needs unnoticed before it is too late. I found myself asking if there was anything more I could have done to help him or if I could have changed his life for the better. I couldn’t have. I offered him all the help I could reasonably offer and he was always so appreciative but would politely turn it down.

It is for this reason that I get so passionate about homelessness in this country and will always stand up for people in that dreadful situation and will try to do my very best to help when and where I can, even if it is simply by raising awareness.

People need to open their eyes when walking around cities and towns and stop pretending that homeless people don’t exist or that it’s not their problem or that “you shouldn’t give them money they will only get drunk or buy drugs”. I invited a homeless guy to join me and my mates for a beer on my stag doo in York in May but he turned the offer down because he was T total. Instead me and my mates give him enough money to go eat and spend the night in a hotel. He was chuffed to bits and split between us cost about £10 each. That’s about 3 and a half pints sacrificed to help somebody in need.

My better half bought a homeless guy in York a hot drink and sausage roll last winter, his reaction genuinely put a tear in my eye. As I looked around I was filled with rage as people looked at us like we were scum for feeding the poor bloke.

Ignorance and dismissal of this problem does nothing to change it and given that we are all just a few unfortunate steps away from being in the same situation, we should all do a lot more to make sure the problem no longer exists rather than sweeping it under the carpet or walking around with blinkers on.

Other blogs on this subject matter:-

OUT OF SITE OUT OF MIND

WHAT’S THE BIG ISSUE?

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

News is pouring out of the USA about the diabolical decision by the Governors of Columbia, South Carolina to criminalise homelessness and to force those unfortunate enough to be homeless into PoW style camps.

The city’s “Emergency Homeless Response Report” Claims that the vast numbers of homeless people living in the area is having a negative impact upon businesses and that business owners are increasingly becoming frustrated. Heaven forbid!

“we are now experiencing an environment where
our staff members and our guests no longer feel
safe even within the confines of our building. This
nexus of perception and reality makes it virtually
impossible for us, or anybody, to create a
sustainable business model…. I urge you to move
quickly to garner results”
– Fred Martin, President, Mast General Store

Ignorant comments such as this are the reason Governors began looking into the “problem”. However, as always, rather than tackle the problem(s) causing homelessness they would much rather look at ways to pop those pesky homeless people somewhere out of sight and out of mind. Just why people such as Fred Martin and his staff feel UNSAFE because there is a person or persons outside his premises unfortunate enough not to have a roof over their head is perplexing. Being homeless does not make you dangerous! It isn’t contagious! So what is he afraid of? If people are afraid that maybe a homeless person may resort to something already criminalised in order to eat or drink then that is something that can be dealt with without the need to criminalise and encamp the homeless so surely that can’t be it? They can’t tar all homeless people with the same brush and assume that they will commit a crime at some point surely?

“I am very concerned that Columbia’s downtown
has become a magnet for homeless people…[the
environment is] not only making our employees,
tenants and residents feel uncomfortable, but also
hindering our ability to attract new residents and
businesses to downtown…I would like to see both
City Council and the people of the Midlands put
all differences aside and do what is best for the
greater good of the community. ”
– Ben D. Arnold, President, Arnold Family Companies

We then have Mr Arnold, his residents, tenants and his employees who “feel uncomfortable”… Awww bless them. Perhaps they should consider how uncomfortable it is to live on the streets and be looked down upon as vermin by they own kind!

“A prosperous, vibrant city needs a prosperous,
vibrant downtown area that is perceived as having an
environment that is safe for all; families, women and
children…The problems are increasing and becoming
more volatile…A serious incident could occur at any
time with tragic repercussions.”
– Rev. Fr. Michael Platanis, Protopresbyter, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

A very vague generalisation from the charitable Rev Platanis there. What “Serious incident” is her referring too?

These are all quotes used within the report on which the Governors of Columbia based their decision to criminalise homeslessness.

So Columbia found themselves facing what the consider two major problems to be addressed;-

1. The need for a long term, sustainable response
to an ongoing problem so that the City of
Columbia never finds itself in this predicament
again.

2. An acute emergency in the heart of the city
that is having a highly detrimental impact upon
the commerce community, downtown
neighborhoods and the perception of safety and
quality of life in the capital city

So the solution they came up with was to stick everybody in a camp. Not tackle the negative and incorrect perception of safety and quality of life amongst the residents and business owners or to build a support system to help the homeless get back on their feet, find employment and provide a roof over their heads. No. The best solution of course is to stick them in a camp, refuse to allow them to leave and stick an armed guard on the road leading to it (a prison then) at a cost of $1.7million when the budget you have is only $500,000.

The report refers to the homeless prisoners as “clients” and will not allow them to walk to the facility but instead will provide vans to round them up and transport them into the facility. They will provide a dedicated number for the public to call when they identify “a person in need” [of imprisoning] and a patrol of officers around the perimeter and guards on roads leading to it. All charity groups who currently feed the homeless with soup kitchens etc will now be banned from doing so unless it is taking place within the grounds of the new facility. Yet this is a kind and charitable method of “aid” for “the needy”. And if you were thinking it is NOT like a prison, they are also going to use this facility to house ex-prisoners too!

HOMELESS PERSON'S PRISON CAMP, COLUMBIA, SC

HOMELESS PERSON’S PRISON CAMP, COLUMBIA, SC

Trnopolje Concentration Camp, Bosnia

Trnopolje Concentration Camp, Bosnia

So what if a homeless person refuses to go, as is his right??? They will be arrested!

The Governors (of Columbia and now their own prison) state this is only a short term solution and describe the issue using words such as “plagued”. So what happens at the end of the “short term”? Nobody knows yet. I would bet that it is extended not only in Columbia but across states and the rest of the USA.

Tampa Bay in Florida have already given Police the power to arrest those found sleeping in the streets. This act has been protested due to the punishment for both the homesless person and the taxpayer as it cost on average $50 a night to lock them up with one county incurring a cost of over $6million in one year!

Homelessness is not a crime. It is not a lifestyle choice. These unfortunate men and women did not wake up one morning and think “Screw this, I don’t want a house and a job, I am off to live in an alleyway next to the Seven Eleven”. We see Soldiers living on the street, Police Officers, graduate and other people who have had at one point or another, successful careers, a family, a home and some pride but for whatever reason they are now forced to live rough on the streets. This is NOT something which should be punished and criminalised.

All this report and the action taken by Columbia shows is that their society, their community spirit, their humanness is broken beyond repair. So long as they can get on with their happy lives and those who need help are out of sight and out of mind then life can go on and they won’t have to consider their own consciences.

Controlling Your Black Dog

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It has been a long time since I wrote about my depressive illness. In fact it has been so long that I have archived my previous blogs. As much as writing them was part of my journey and helped with my illness, so too was archiving them. It felt right after a while to put them away for now. It wasn’t because I was feeling better. Not at all, at the time of doing so I was still very much suffering and relied heavily on my tablets. Those who suffer and those with close friends and family who suffer may already know that you never really beat depression but YOU can control IT rather than IT controlling YOU. And that is what I have achieved now 6 months down the line.

I did this through a mixture of the following things. They worked for me but may not work for you.

  1. Education and awareness
  2. Music
  3. Identifying the cause and doing something about it
  4. Exercise.

I will briefly explain each of the four stages and how it has helped and is still helping me to control my black dog in hope that somebody might benefit from it and begin to gain some control over their own black dog.

Education and Awareness

When I was first diagnosed with depression back in September/October 2013 I already had quite a good awareness and knowledge of the illness. As stated in my other blogs I have seen and helped other family members suffering with depressive illness and got to see the different stages develop. However, observing is completely different to experiencing depressive illness and although having a knowledge of the illness helped me to recognise I was suffering and begin various self help techniques when it got too much and I was put onto medication I decided more research and education was needed.

I immediately took to the internet to read up on Depression but found everything so clinical, so boring and so black and white. Everything I read simply repeated what previous articles had said and what I already knew. I took to twitter and was, from the very start, open and honest about suffering with depression. I told people, whether it be on social media or in person, about MY depression and how it made ME feel because no two cases are the same. It was then somebody, and I wish I could remember who so I could thank them, pointed me in the direction of this book…

Depressive Illness – The Curse Of The Strong by Dr Timothy Cantopher is a MUST read for anybody suffering any form of depressive illness. The book takes everything there is to know about the illness including why it is a PHYSICAL illness and not a mental illness, the various chemical imbalances in the brain, the symptoms, why certain people are more prone to depression than others… All the way through to recovery and control of the illness and it presents it in such a down to earth, easy to understand fashion. The book also manages to be humorous at times too. This one book not only educated me and helped me to understand the nature of the beast but it also counselled me through the last 6 months+.

“To know your enemy, you must become your enemy” – Sun Tzu

In order for sufferers of Depressive Illness to be able to start recovering and getting better and also in order for society to be more accepting and understanding of the illness which in turn helps the sufferer they must first KNOW the illness. Understand it. Know what is happening internally to their brain and body and why they feel the way they do. Understand that contrary to popular belief depression is not something that impacts upon weak people but quite the opposite, it is the curse of the strong.

Working within the Police Service I found the lack of knowledge, understanding and awareness of what is now the 2nd biggest cause of human sickness in the WORLD frighteningly non existent. The Police spend a lot of time learning about mental health or how best to deal with a member of the public suffering with mental health problems but they do not actually pay any attention to depression and how not only to handle those members of the public we come across who may suffer but also and perhaps more importantly, how to identify it and manage it within the workplace.

For this reason I set up SIREN SUPPORT (@SirenSupport on Twitter). I set up the twitter page followed by a blog website in an effort to raise awareness of depression within the emergency services as a whole, not just the Police. The idea behind it was firstly to try and help those who may be suffering and not realise, those suffering and are too afraid to tell anybody or those who have suffered a long time. The aim was then to educate and build awareness of the issue amongst those who do not suffer and do not know what depression is other than “it’s just a mental illness isn’t it?”. Even amongst the highest levels of management within the Police, Ambulance and Fire Services the level of knowledge was and still is appalling. Via SIREN I reached out to unions, federations, training facilities for the emergency services such as the College of Policing, Chiefs, Commanders and even Government. All my emails were either ignored or responded to with empty words. Sadly this is still the case and SIREN has now slowed right down because I can not manage it on my own and became tired of being ignored by those in power who care very little about the subject. I do however plan on coming back with a new strategy in the near future and seeing if things can be changed.

Building my own self awareness of depression and then helping others to do the same has played a major part in me now being in control of my “black dog” and dark days are virtually non existent now.

MUSIC

Those who know me and who follow me on Twitter (@CanisLupusPC) will know how much I love my music and love to sing. I have posted more than enough videos to my YouTube channel and Twitter to bore you to death (there a more on the way for those who like them). Music has by far been the number one tool on my belt to help control the black dog. When I first realised I was suffering with depression, way before I took the big step of going to the Docs or telling anybody else how I felt, music was one of my self help techniques. I had a number of songs or pieces of music, including things like wolf song and sounds of nature, which I could listen too and instantly begin to feel calmer, happier and more relaxed. I found that when I was stressed or becoming angry or upset, locking myself in my office and recording a couple of songs, even if I never went as far as uploading them, helped to calm me right down. Singing released me. Singing and listening to music helped me drift into another, much happier, place. Music was and still is a wonderful therapy. Music has long been my passion since I was a little child and so perhaps this is why, for me, doing anything musical helped. My other passion is photography however my depression sadly made me lose a little enthusiasm for this passion (it does that to you) and it fell by the wayside but thankfully, because I would hate to live in a world without it, music remained with me. Music, they say, is what emotions sound like.

IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT

One great thing to do if you are suffering from depression is identifying factors in your life that may be contributing to or causing the illness. By this I don’t mean dwelling on things which happened in the past of which you no longer have any control or ability to change. I mean things which are happening NOW. It may be certain people, social events, commitments, relationships or, as I found, your job. Without going into the details of why the Police Service is going to ruin under this government (this isn’t the blog for that) or some of the things I experienced (you can read that in my future book hopefully) I realised that it was my job and certain people I worked with that was causing the majority of my stress and depression. Thankfully I had a few good and honest friends at work, especially my buddy Steve, who kept me sane and stopped me losing the plot completely. He was one of the very few who recognised depression in me but was the only one with the balls to tell me. I can honestly say that had it not been for him then I would probably have screwed up at work and gotten into bother due to certain individuals being out to make me snap and I dare say it, (if you knew him you would laugh at this) that he was my calming influence at work.

I found myself angry at work, angry as my rest days were coming to an end, angry at the thought of going to work. I lost interest in the job, lost motivation, lost the drive I had always had and then one day following an argument with a colleague who I know had leaked some personal information about me to criminals (long story for another day) I lost it and ALMOST went for him. I saw the red mist and had it not been for Steve I think I would have been facing charges of assault. It got THAT bad. That was the day I decided to take time off work and the day I had made up my mind that I had to leave that job.

And that is what I did. I took the HUGE but necersary step and I resigned from the Police Service. I have since moved into the Pub trade and I can honesty say, other than missing my mates, I have no regrets whatsoever. It is by far the best decision I have ever made. Even handing in my resignation felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I thought I may get nervous or change my mind as my final day approached. I didn’t. I was glad to be free from working in the Police Service. I spent a decade in the world of law enforcement and it will always be a part of my life.

One of the other major contributors to my stress and depression was my lifestyle and lack of exercise which as some may know impacts upon the hormone balance within the body. So the final piece of my personal puzzle is Exercise.

EXERCISE

Exercise balances and manipulates hormone levels within the body. Depression is a result of imbalanced hormone levels within the body. So it stands to reason that in order to re-balance the hormone levels you need to add some exercise into your lifestyle and perhaps change your lifestyle completely.

I have been a pretty lazy slob for about 2 years now. After inuring my spine and having scans and treatment galore I was advised not to do any form of exercise as it will aggravate the problem and to simply stick to the stretches shown to me by the physiotherapists. This did wonders to fix the neck/spinal problem but did little to stop my gut growing outwards and extra chins forming on my face. It also did nothing at all to help with my depression and I believe this contributed a lot to my depression too. I started putting on weight, going from 16 stone to 19 stone in less than a year! I watched as I gained the extra stones and could do nothing to try and shed it. As depression took its toll I honestly don’t think I would have had the drive to do any exercise even if my neck got better over night.

As time went by and I stuck to taking my 20mg of Citalopram a day as instructed by the doctor I got my get up and go back. I started doing little bits of exercise at home. I would work my arms shoulder and chest by spending hours chopping firewood. I began being more active. I also live in a pub and so the temptation to have a pint or two each night was high and so I used what little will power my black dog allowed me to muster and I decreased my alcohol intake too.

In the last few weeks however I decided enough was enough. My neck was much better but still not perfect and I was feeling much more motivated. A good friend of mine had been training since June in power-lifting and his transformation so far has been impressive. I watched him pull a transit van 8.6miles to raise money for Yorkshire Air Ambulance and I thought “I want some of that” and I signed up right then.

PowerBurn involves high intensity weight training 3 times a week focusing on different parts of the body on each session as well as a strict diet plan. It is very hard work but I LOVE it! I am trained by one of the strongest women in the world Gemma Magnusson and after only 3 weeks I already feel like a different man. Not just physically but mentally.

I did a silly thing and stopped taking my tablets 3 weeks ago. I ran out and kept forgetting to put my prescription in. I intended on visiting the doctor to have them reduced to 10mg anyway and then wean myself off of them BUT I did what I always tell others not to do and I stopped taking them altogether. However I honestly feel that PowerBurn is already working to rebalance my hormone levels and doing what the tablets were doing. I feel GREAT. I feel happy. I look forward to getting up at 0550hrs on a morning to train. I am on a zero carb diet right now so am completely off the booze. I do have one strange feeling which is my head feels a bit wishy-washy. Almost like I have flu. But this is the exact same feeling I had when I started taking anti depressant and they started rebalancing the hormone levels. For now I will continue to NOT take them and I am going to see the Doc to let him know and I am going to stick to this new found passion in training.

I would strongly advise anybody suffering with depression, whether diagnosed or not, to start adding exercise into their daily routine. Just one hour of high intensity training 3 times a week could make a vast difference. Also start eating healthy. What you eat effects how you feel. You are what you eat they say. One brilliant little gem of knowledge I learnt from Gemma was that a handful of Cashew nuts has the same hormonal impact as a prozac or anti depressant tablet. So finish this blog and get ya backside up and DO SOMETHING. Whatever you can manage. Just be active and you will feel a difference. Small steps to start with if you struggle with motivation or drive because that is one of the worse side effects of depression. After all you do not want to burn out and end up feeling worse.

So there we have it. These four simple things have helped ME to control MY black dog. I don’t know if it is under control for good or whether the leash will break at some point but for now I feel better than I have done in YEARS.

dogonleash

TOO POOR TO DIE

grave

They say there are only two certainties in life. Death and taxes. However it now seems that both are equally as extortionate and bias towards the wealthy.

A recent report from RT News reported that the costs of funerals in the UK are higher than ever before. They report that the cost is up by 50-80% for even the most basic of services.

But why? We all die. We all have to be disposed of in one way or another whether that is burial or cremation. Obviously the more elaborate a funeral service the more expensive it will be but with minimum costs of between £3,750 to £5000 and the average cost within the UK is reported to be £8000 (the average cost in France is only £2200) then how on earth can we afford to have our loved ones laid to rest?

According to the Centre for Death and Society one in five people now struggle or fail to afford a funeral when they lose a loved one. According to the DWP they and the Government do their fair share to help people who can not afford to pay a high street undertaker and “meet the costs in full”. They state that “successful applicants” receive a contribution towards the fee levied by funeral directors and this fee currently £700. They say other costs such as Doctors certificates and fees and add ons sold by directors are also met in full. Sounds brilliant. Those of us (one in five) who can not afford to get help to give their loved ones a service after death can get help from the Government. However, the average Government payment last year was only £1,225 which means then that those applying have to find several thousand pounds extra. On top of this, the report conducted by RT found that the scheme run by DWP is “insufficient, overly complex and outdated” with people having to commit to funeral cost prior to applying for a payment.

The cost of a single grave plot for a coffin can range from £750 to £2500 but if you are burying a casket rather than coffin the cost rises to £1100 to £3500! Add to that the cost of the church or chapel for a service which can range from £50 to in some places £200 then you are already way out of most people’s budgets. Then lets consider the price of a coffin or casket which range from several hundred to tens of thousands of pounds. Personally I do not see the point in expensive coffins or caskets to simply bury underground never to be seen again but each to their own. When you choose your coffin or casket you are then bombarded with a choice of handles, trimmings, plaques, decoration etc etc etc. the list is endless and costs keep mounting.

We all know the nation is in a financial mire and welfare is being stripped back to the bare bones for those in need of support. We also know that big corporations, banks and other people and companies tucked up in bed with Government ministers seem to be receiving tax cuts and favours along with generous suggestions by “independent think tanks”. So is the ever increasing rise in funeral costs and lack of support from Government a ploy to force people into taking out life insurance policies? Why are the costs of dying so rapidly rising? What has changed to justify a rise of almost 80% in cost? Surely the cost of caskets hasn’t increased that much? Is it the cost of land to extend cemeteries? Is it the increase in energy prices making it more expensive to fire up the oven for cremation? Or is it simple greed from high street funeral directors who often deploy pushy, seemingly sympathetic emotionally charged sales techniques to talk families into paying for little but expensive extras?

This is not something which only impacts upon a few. Whether you like it or not we are all going to die one day. It is one of the few things that every single person on the planet has in common. We should not be restricted by class or wealth when it comes to death and I think it is time the Government step up and take control of this situation. A cap on the rising costs. A restriction on life insurance sales pitches. A basic fixed fee national funeral package. An affordable and fair repayment package… There are a number of things which Government, Life Insurance companies and Funeral Directors could do to make death much more affordable for all so why are they not doing it?

I don’t have the answer. Yet. If you can explain then please do let me know.

So long as this unmanageable rise in costs continues we will inevitably see a rise in debt or “paupers funerals”.