There’s a box of diazepam in the bottom of my bag. I carry it around like a weapon, or how I imagine someone might carry a weapon. I have taken only one and yes, it definitely worked.
The problem is the historical child abuse left me with complex PTSD, so that as soon as my anxiety peaks, my immune system crashes.
This week I have suffered from oral thrush, mainly. Oral thrush is a thick brown-yellow discharge which coats your tongue, down into your throat. My glands swelled, my muscles tightened until they became rock like and my hands stopped functioning as hands.
The response my body has to the fear of attack is real and terrible. I was a terrified child, teenager and young woman, scared shitless of my mother and her poison. The doctors all agree that talking therapies will help me. Unfortunately for me, talking therapies are expensive and out of my price range.
Today is the day the landlady thinks I am moving out. Today is the day she normally evicts her tenants (so that she can enjoy her school holidays in a nice Scottish village, rather than a busy German city). It is 9am and I am sweating profusely and have needed inhalers already.
I have seen and spoken to five doctors this past week. I explained I was suffering from the physical manifestation of psychological pain and that I had been dealing with this for as long as I can remember. All they can do is treat the symptoms. All they can do is write down the heightened anxiety and try to medicate the asthma, the psoriasis, the shakes, the diarrhoea etcetera.
In order that the doctors had context and didn’t think I was exaggerating, I brought in some of the witness statements about the attacks I have endured at the hands of the landlady. It is important to be believed, and, for a woman who was never believed when she reported her own child abuse (my mother’s catch-phrase in relation to my child abuse is ”that one has a grand imagination”). Each doctor took time to read the accounts other people gave of their interactions with my landlady. They offered empathy, compassion and whatever help they could, apologising profusely that they couldn’t do more.
The girls are coming. The single mothers and friends. The ones who know what it is like to be moved on, shifted, evicted, at the whim of some property owner. They are bringing their cameras and their kids, and for the next week there will be a sit-in here.
We need a new caveat to the law in Scotland. It is commonplace in other countries, but because of our historical patriarchal land system, we do not. Other countries state in law that landlords must not punish tenants. We need the same respect for our mothers, our women, our young families.
I might take another valium, if I need it. I would prefer, with the help of my friends, to stand firm and grin and begin the process of updating our laws.
I have a fear and dread of hysterical out of control shouting screamie women. For the past twelve months I have been regularly challenged by women who have, for one reason or another, wanted to scream, shout and attack me.
My landlady followed me around my home shoutng at me and calling me names. I hadn’t done anything to her. I had merely pointed (again) to the black mould patches.
The fear and anxiety which follows repeated attacks in your own home is vile. It is an occurrence which I have lived with for most of my life. Many women have enjoyed the reaction I have to being under attack.
My doctor cannot help me. I need psychotherapy in order to properly witness the early childhood stuff, in order to find a way to move on.
When you attack me, I crumble inside. When you raise your voice and call me names or put me down, my body has a chemical fight or flight instinct. Except the fight part has never worked properly. I tried many times as a child to hide from my mother and, all trough adulthood, I have feared women who abuse.
Growing up I was told I was too sensitive and should be more able to manage the shouting and name calling. It is only now in peri-menopause that I can even begin to understand that I have a choice here. I have to find a way to deal with bullies. The time has come for me to stand in front of these screamie wimmin and tell them, ‘it isn’t attractive, I think you are disrespecting our sex and if men acted in this way we would put them in jail.’
In order to do anything like that, I have to disengage the ‘flight’ mode of whatever chemical reaction or learned habit it is that happens to me. I cannot avail of psychotherapy because it is too expensive. All I can do is regulate my breathing.
I have a genuine fear of my landlady and she is due to arrive in Scotland from Germany any time soon.
My landlady has a pattern of evicting her tenants in order that she has a wee cottage for her Summer holidays. She would like to evict me rather than repair her property and does not want to do this legally.
Legally, your landlord now has to apply to the courts and state one of twelve reasons for eviction. A solicitor’s Notice to Quit is no longer sufficient.
All my life my home has been under threat. I have been under threat in my own home. And I am not alone. I belong to a community of mothers across the Highlands who are regularly forced into flitting, shifting, starting again and again and again.
How many times in your life have you been homeless?
How many times in your life has someone screamed abuse at you, in your home?
How many times have you felt the threat of losing your home?
I tremble. I stutter. My hands stop working. My eczema returns, with asthma. When you come into my home, my safe place and threaten me, my child, my life then I die inside. When you yell and scream and hurl your toxins at me, I want to leave my body and be as breath on a breeze. You scare me with your poisonous projections. Your anger makes my stomach heave and turn.
The landlady is due to arrive in the country for her holidays.
I am not ready, I do not feel able, but I am going to do it. I am going to stand tall and breathe and face the repulsion and disgust I feel for women who feel the need to yell, scream and abuse others.
Here, on the other side of the fence where truth and kindness are our daily actions, where the war for love blasts our lives relentlessly, Scotland’s housing crisis is robbing me of my previously patient and forgiving stores. Up here in the Highlands, basic housing needs are not being met, and, when challenged, tenants are being regularly punished for attempting to bring their homes up to reasonable standard.
I wish to propose a new law. It will make it illegal for a landlady to punish a tenant for reporting repairs. I want to call it The Burnett Law.
The Burnett Papers is a growing document of emails, reports and witness statements, which I will carry to the first-tier tribunal next week. There is new legislation which has some leverage against absentee negligent landladies and I am making full use of it. When I moved to this house, a previous tenant whispered in my ear. “Document everything” she said. And so I did.
Here in the cheap seats we hold tight to the bits of love we find. We gather close to those with hope still in their eyes. We know the world is turning harder, more full of the love of money as the root of all evil and we do our best to choose love in everything we do. The most loving, the kindest thing I can think to do is to take my landlady to tribunal and document the experience in the hope it gives another woman strength to say no to the never ending intimidation and abuse of landlords towards their tenants.
You are not alone. There are thousands of us every week, bullied out of our homes for asking for repairs. We are not begging for carpets to replace the ten year old bare worn ones. We are not wanting prettier paint for the kitchen. We want warmth. We want clean air to breathe. We want to be safe in our homes, to raise our children.
There are slugs travelling through the wall in the bathroom where the tile fell off. The wall is blackened and fetid. Last year it was re-tiled, in places, to cover the damp. This year, as the house dries out, the tiles are falling off again. My daughter stepped in a slug, in her bare feet, in the middle of the night as she went for a pee.
Sometimes, in the war for love, we have to shout loud and clear. We have to demand better, even when we know the consequences.
I asked my landlady two years ago about the black mould. I asked her again last winter. She did nothing about it. Instead, she began to insult, abuse, disrespect and threaten me. When I showed her the rising damp in the kitchen she yelled and screamed at me that I was a liar. When I directed her to the cupboards where our belongings were destroyed by black mould, she yelled that I was crazy, that no one liked me and that I was just a liar. She reminded me of my mother when I told her the old man was abusing me. She immediately threatened to evict me and has done everything in her power to make life as uncomfortable for me as possible.
Single mothers like me usually stay quiet, for fear of eviction.It is time to stop. It is time for change. it is time the homeless and the landless asked for equality, demanded the love and kindness needed to be able to remain in one home to raise children. Single mothers are a fairly downtrodden sub-class of society, permanently tired, with self esteem issues, just getting by, doing the best we can, for our children. We try not to make a fuss because we are kicked out, moved on, shifted from scheme to estate to village on the whim of the powerful.
There is no insulation in this house I rent and love and call my home. Zero insulation. All heat escapes through the walls or the roof. I am in fuel poverty because of my heating costs. My landlady knows this. She has known about the mould for years. Even with the stoves burning, the radiators running from big orange propane bottles which cost a fortune, plug in heater on full and a dehumidifier, we were still cold all last winter.
I am not alone. This is common practise across the Highlands of Scotland.
This is not a blog for the greedy or the hate filled. This is not a blog for minds poisoned by the need to bully. This is a blog to remind you that you deserve love, kindness and decency in every area of your life, even from your landlady.
Are you thinking about self publishing? Do you want to be an indie? Are you fed up with the rejection letters from traditional publishers? Have you got a fire in your belly for your book? Are you ready to take control and bring your book to the world? This is a course for the determined, for those wishing to empower themselves. This is a course for the serious emerging indie, those wishing to develop audiences and those traditionally published authors who want to take control of their backlist.
It is common to suppose that you write the book, then your publisher sells it. You imagine your book of beautiful words and pretty sentences will bring thousands of pounds to your bank account and you can just lie back, rest, maybe write another.Unfortunately, this is no longer accurate information.
Authorship is a business. You become your product and you have to demonstrate to agents, publishers, literary industry and fans that you are worth investing time and effort in.
Audience engagement with your product, before your product is available, is now commonplace. Writers wish for fans as they write, so that there is a market waiting for their book. We engage with our potential readers before our novels are even at first draft. As independent authors and publishers we actively seek out the folk who will enjoy our words, in order that we may one day sell them a book, or indeed, buy a book from them.
There are many questions to consider. In this course you will be examining the nuances of publishing, the etiquette of Twitter, how to find book reviewers. You will learn how to create a book which looks as good, if not better, than a traditionally published one.
We take time to explore the online world of authors and readers and the many thousands of sites where stories are sold.
We look at the self published books with professional input and we examine the covers, layouts, designs, formatting and ISBNs.
We look at audio books, Amazon Author Central and Kindle Direct Publishing.
Print on demand companies work with indies to help distribute physical copies of your book. Which print on demand company best suits you is subjective and dependent on pricing, benefits and relationship. Building a relationship with your print on demand company is vital.
Some people are simply not comfortable revealing their poet-identities. It takes time for folk to take on the role of indie. Insecurities are the main barrier, in my opinion, to stepping up and publishing your gorgeous stories on your own blog.
To overcome this, I have been teaching the shy retiring emerging indies to create public personas which they are comfortable with. For instance, one student did not wish to be known as a poet, so I helped him create an alter ego for social media sites.
Here is an example of an alter ego, or second self, which I created for a client.
This is where he can publish rants, insights and wisdoms and fans can engage.
On Facebook he is Nib Doula, with pages called Nib’s Nature Notes
He also has Twitter, Goodreads, Kobo, Pinterest, SmashWords, Google Plus, Instagram and Literary Hub accounts, with audiences of hundreds on each.
I built and connected all these sites. Nib wrote the content.
The content of your blog (eg WordPress) allows potential readers to access your world and you. Audience engagement is vital. I like to win one fan at a time – they are more loyal that way. I ignore the haters and the trolls. I build security systems into blog sites in order that trolls can’t leave their poison.
(For those of you who don’t know, internet trolls are people who need to project negativity by leaving hate speech on your sites. A bit like the sad little man up the road who shouts at everyone because he is feeling angry).
Writing content for blogs is as important as the content of your book and you give it as much consideration. Recording your spoken word pieces and uploading onto You Tube should be done as professionally as possible. The time to publish your blog is when the demographic for your identified target market is likely to be online. For instance, the demographic for Nib Doula’s target market are on line on Sunday mornings, reading blogs they have bookmarked on Friday evening commutes home from work in the city, so I published his rants and poetry at 4pm on Fridays, stayed online to engage with any clickers on any social media site and then recorded the positive reactions by either adding friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter and WordPress and collecting email addresses.
These are the rudiments of audience development for writers. There is a whole lot more to learn and many wonderful indies ready to help and assist you.
I teach you how to build the sites, maintain them, link them, and unless you purchase a domain name, your online identity should cost nothing. That’s right. You do not need to spend money on a website.
The world of Search Engine Optimisation is the art of tricking the Google algorithm so that your website appears on google search pages. It is aided by Adwords. Amazon have a similar system with categories and keywords. It takes a bit of learning and practice to understand both systems. You will make mistakes, we all do.
In order to understand all this, and much more, you need to access courses and workshops facilitated by indie writers. I love Joanna Penn and The Alliance of Independent Authors. The Times and The Grauniad also offer self publishing workshops.
I offer online tutorials of two hours duration.
I have found that three sessions of two hours each and even total beginners can build, upload, own, publish, share, comment, engage and feel comfortable with social media, whether as their genuine self or as their alter ego.
Once you have established yourself online and are contributing content to the digital world, you will gain followers. You then have a potential income source. These are the people you sell your book to, and then you encourage them to tell their friends.
I offer online or face to face classes on author branding, SEO, the costs of self publishing, how to network, how build your author platform, how to find a designer, the types of computer files required for print on demand companies and the type of files needed for Kindle or Kobo or SmashWords.
Payment is £40 for each 2 hour session.
Sessions are online, unless otherwise agreed.
Once payment has been received, I will be in touch to set a date for our first consultation.
The first consultation serves to ascertain your needs and what you want to do with your book. We then build a plan of where to start, we begin creating your author profiles and then I teach you how to find your fans and readers, reviewers, peers, support networks and other Indies, as well as spoken word events, submissions to journals or competitions. Each week you build your skills and knowledge until your book is ready to publish. We then find a suitable launch pad.
Please use the contact form for any queries and for banking details