Your Inner Writer. Culture Day.

Culture Day Forres is on Saturday 29th September 2018 in Forres. It is a showcase of sensory heritage, gathered from the planet, located in Moray, Scotland. Brought to you by Findhorn Bay Festival. In amongst the circus and the smells, in the Town Hall, up the dark stairs, in the attic office is a desk and chair waiting for you. There’s a pencil and pages of paper. Enter the writer’s room and try your hand at free-writing the stuff and nonsense in your head….

Sessions start at 11am and run for 30 minutes to one hour until 4pm.

Culture Day Forres

 

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Rope by Orla Broderick

A blue twine noose

hangs empty, for now,

from Carron Works desolate bridge.

A dirty river, bricked, below.

In grey rain I face

all the dead faces

and know,

there but for the grace of Mother, go I.

I was disappeared at fifteen, from all I knew, to a convent in the country. It was a punishment and meant to cure me of my evil. My crime was such it was forbidden in thought or talk. After Inter Cert I stalked the most beautiful girl in Wicklow and was suddenly locked away, far away from home. The fear I carry has roots in this. I stood on a window sill three stories high and desired the jump. At sixteen, terrified to speak the truth of me, I knew I had to lie to live. Or die. A nun found me there, on her way to wake the snoring dormitory. She showed no shock, she offered no comfort. I told her I must have been sleep walking.
I had been removed from friends, neighbours and folk who cared, to an institution deep in the heart of Ireland. Without choice, without voice, without a soul to hear me, I desired death and destruction for myself. But, there was a woman in that school called Mrs. O’Shea and she taught me the love of the written word, of poetry, of putting hard times into words, with feeling. I learned, at seventeen, to write it out. Thirty years later and I am getting the hang of it, both the living and the scribing.

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Autumn Courses

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Valium

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.

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Screamie Wimmin Anxiety

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.

 

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The Burnett Law

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.

 

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