Friday, 26 December 2014

Amazing Grace

It's been a year of ups and downs, highs and depths.
Above all it's been a year of holding my mettle and not losing my nerve.
The usual cocktail party of Death Stars and Voldemortes doing the Dracula rounds but more than that. A real test of what matters and what to discard.

Some friends have been anchors and guiding stars,  constant and leading in the right direction.  Others brought havoc into my life and people I would never have chosen to be around. The words "due diligence" took on extra dimensions.

Encounters I thought would be fleeting became life changing,  ones I thought would be significant turned to nothing, like chasing the  tail of a shooting star.

What's become evidently clear is the heap of love, courage, wings, support and compassion delivered daily to my door and the invincible knowledge and belief that plans are unfolding and right does prevail, justice can triumph corruption and unholy alliances,   that truth, like a plant growing towards sunlight, like creativity, is unstoppable.

It's been a year of shedding people and things that don't matter so that things and people who do can take pride of place.

To the friends who stuck by, through sick and sin, thick and think, my gratitude and my love.

To those who choose negativity and try to cut down people,  use and take advantage,  undermine so you can feel better about your own pathetic life, I wish you sunlight because it is the best disinfectant.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The view from here

When I'm ready to give it up,  kick it in,  throw up the towel, 3 things happen.

I get an FOI decision overturned about the Ministry of Justice and Michael Spurr's refusal to hand over details of correspondence between Ministry of Justice officials and G4S.  Part of that disclosure is the panic and fear surrounding the inquiry and in spite of being ordered by the Information Commissioner to give me the data requested,  they give a hundred reasons why not.  Watch this space. I'm winning.

Then a lovely message confirming a meeting with a changemaker, not another Hungry Ghost or Voldemorte come to suck up my air. I tell him I'm struggling and keep finding the wrong people with the wrong values to help me build my field of dreams.

How hollow I feel,  having had my faith in humans excavated by a man I thought I knew like I knew me, but who's just a 2D cut out of a person. Mind the papercuts.

The email from the person who has done social enterprise and built things of value on a global scale helps to or things back into perspective. Of course it's hard.  Of course it's going to attract people who want to be part of something big and worthwhile,  it's like blotting paper for all the sordid things they're doing in other parts of their lives. Your vision and values become their lifeboat.  But drowning men make dangerous bedfellows and I don't like pleasure boats or the view from the deck of the Titanic,  even first class.

Finally, I see an old friend for a drink.  My old life is resuming its patterns and people and the old inner safety which I'd completely lost is creeping back. People tell me how creepy they thought D was, how invasive and inappropriate and clumsy socially.  I wonder why they didn't tell me before.  Louder.

"Jesus fucking Christ, you're crazy,"  my eyes grow larger in disbelief . I tell my friend he's mad and a ghost of a pre Christmas conversation echoes on my mind.

I recall one of our last conversations, In December when I knew I was ending it and I didn't really care anymore.  He was telling me about his children all blessed with idiotic biblical names and how the second youngest had moved out again, aged 8.

We'd bought fish and chips from Fish in Borough Market and were standing by the river. It was one of those London in the sunshine days that makes sin city look beautiful.  The river was like molten mercury, a patch of water had caught the light on the opposite side and appeared to be galloping towards us and staying still. It was hypnotic. It was also one of those perfectly observed moments when you realise that your lover isn't perfect, that the shape of his world, messy, deceitful and selfish is like a dust cloth, covering up all kinds of inefficiencies. I've said something and he reacts.

" You know Farah, you say Jesus a lot."

You're not serious.  My heart sighs. How did I get here again with Mr Churchwarden? The Talking Heads song plays in my head.

"Does it offend your Christian sensibilities, my love?  I swear a lot too."

These subtle manoeuvres designed to gently deflate, make me question, feel a little insecure,  these sleight of hand attempts to try and reign me in,  make me fit the shape of his world feel like shackles.  But he's a smooth predator.

Back to my real world,  into the now. My friend is trying to set me up with a friend of his while I'm extolling the blood bath of my last relationship massacre. I'm not ready.  I don't think I might ever be ready again.

I'm aghast.  I've tried comfort and rebound sex, which usually works, a couple of times since Dan, but I craved the intimacy we shared and both times I've ended up crying. I was grieving.  It was far too soon. I feel like a tap has been turned off at its source and sex is not appealing. I just needed to be held.

"He's sharp as a tack. Had a successful IT business and its now on an alternative lifestyle pathway," my earnest friend begins, trying to sell his friend.

"No no and no.  Tell him to follow me on Twitter. Or become a Facebook friend.  It's all happening there." I still feel damaged and although I'm rapidly forgetting his presence,  love and sadness linger.

"He doesn't want to be your Facebook friend. You met him in Paris... do you remember,  the restaurant in the Bois de Boulougne, I think we went on the Thursday... He was with the Swedish blonde. "

I do remember.  Big smiling man,  I remember his smile and his blue eyes and how tall he was and that his calming presence filled the room. I remember thinking how beautiful the woman was and how she shone every time he looked at her or spoke to her. They were perfect together.

"What happened to Scarlet Johanssen,"  I ask,  curiosity piqued. The man had started to tell me about his life style change from capitalist carnivore to shaman and healer but the restaurant was loud and there were a dozen other people at our table. We lost the thread of our conversation.  I got drunk.

"They're finished," my friend says coolly. "He asked for your number. "

I sit still with my discomfort and try and understand the feeling.  I'm scared.

"I just don't feel ready.  Maybe in a few months." I wonder if the healer can hold my fragile heart  which appears to have gone cold, in his gentle hands and bring it back to life.

"In a few months he'll have met someone else and you'll still be self destructing with these awful men you find. " He retorts angrily,  as if I go out and search for them like truffles or unicorns. Since Jeremy Clarke, it's been a succession of assorted frogs. And blood curdling vampire bats.

"Oh for fuck's sake. I don't want to meet anyone
. Anyway I'm busy," this is true. I don't have a free evening until March 18.  I've started pilates
,  art classes and joined a book club. I'm seeing friends and I have filled my diary and blocked out time for myself.

I don't have a man shape hole in my life.

"Farah he wants to meet you.  Not take over your life or marry you or fix you.  I've said we'll meet him for a coffee on Thursday.  He's a healer,  he's pretty good."

So that's that then. Out of the wreckage curiosity rises, phoenix like. I'm meeting the Shaman, chaperoned of course.

I have no expectations.  Life is suffering.  The Buddha said so.  But being held in the generous heart space of a shaman has great appeal.

We spoke last night.  I inelegantly blurted out everything, all the current mess and hurt. He has a lovely voice and made me laugh. Maybe all humans want is kindness and to love each other.  I tell him I feel disconnected from my sexuality.  He says we'll find it together.

I'm glad we are having tea first.

I'm looking forward to seeing him  I've ditched my chaperone. I have a reading to get to after,  so it feels safe and there's an exit.

Green roots of recovery?

PS I missed the reading.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


" I want you disgraced. I want history to erase your every achievement. I want you to feel the disgust in your children's eyes when they look on you in shame."

God I loved Patty Hewes...cold hard and brutal. "When I'm done with you there won't be anything left,"

Poor Constance and Vicky. Hilary has the right idea. Clever women don't take it personally,  they accept liability and that rage is complex and needs military strategy to manage. There's light in destruction too.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Though much is taken...

"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
 We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Someone read this to me a month ago. Heroes as facsimiles. Then I read it in Inside Out, the prison magazine. I meet women who galvanise me and make my life real and worthwhile again.

How easily I forget and how careless I've been with my freedom and my free will.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Honoured to be  at Southbank in an audience of (mostly) women who are there to find out about this year's One Billion Rising. This year we're rising for justice for all women.

A domestic worker tells how she saved herself from being raped by her employer. Warm tears start rolling down both cheeks. Helena Kennedy catches my eye and I see her clear eyes are cloudy with tears too. The Philipina domestic worker's pain catches us both, probably all, by surprise and we have all been there.

Fucked by the patriarchy whether it is by being compromised to our own truth and under selling our value as women,  catering to a narcissist who steals our light for his vanity, or in a death lock with Eros, love with conditions and constraints. Helena asks poignantly what makes for an appropriate woman? How can the criminal justice system work for women?

Stella Creasy hard headed MP and former shadow equalities minister says she's ashamed of the Britain that locks up asylum detainees and treats women the way we treat asylum seekers who are women. I tell her she's brave and thank her for inspiring me and others to not shut up or back down. She says she's not brave, "I'm just bolshy."

I find myself uplifted,  these women with our stories find a common place to come together to weep, to shed our pain, to laugh and rise again.

This year, one billion women will be raped across the world. More than one billion men and women will rise for justice for these women and will dance.

I wish you'd been there. My heart spilled over with love and I reconnected with who I am and why I'm here. I'd forgotten, living in his grey world and shadows.

Thandi Newton finished with some freeflow about fear, and why the trolls on Twitter had taken against Stella and Caroline Criado-Perez  with such vengeance. Fear of the unknown,  fear of change and fear of losing control. We are being controlled by fear.

How refreshing to assert that we are not afraid, that by "pooling our voices we liberate each other," says Stella into Eve Ensler's river of justice.

Tonight my heart sang in poems and reflected love all the colours of the rainbow. I find Helena and the woman ex offender who also spoke and  I'm so happy to see both. Helena and her book  Eve was Framed, have inspired me for years,  before I know her, to have a voice and to speak out loud for those who can't.

Tonight I feel connected to the me I've abandoned, the woman my children love, my friends celebrate though the success they project,  the words they use to comfort me- warrior woman, fighter and champion for human rights, passionate believer that justice can prevail.  I don't know how I've been living, like a stray, eyes wide shut in a dangerous world, letting someone treat me and talk to me and others in a way I can't accept. I had to cut him out like a cancer and let him go back to his sleeping state in suburban purgatory. Not for me.

I get home and blast the theme Rising.  Michael Turner QC calls. He's shocked by something I tell him, he assures me it will be alright and offers to call the person who is lashing out and in pain. I ask him not to,  this person doesn't belong in our lives. We showed him love and acceptance.  He abused it with easy intimacy and power games.

"Promise me you're going to stop picking men who need saving?" He says, "I'm in Southwark,  I'll see you after court? I'm around." I tell him to send dates to go and see Helena Kennedy so we can plan our book launch for Women vs. The State (UK).

I can't argue with that,  really. No more fixer uppers. "Let me meet your friends first," he offers helpfully.

"Yeh. You really liked Dan." We all did.

"Yes, but you crossed the rubicon,  Farah."

I have a life beyond my wildest dreams, with love and people who remain, through thick and sin. I want all women,  I want my beautiful daughter and her friends to know what safety feels like,  what boundaries and trust with men are about. I want them all to have a great man,  at least one,  who loves them entirely unconditionally,  without judgement when they serially fuck up, like a Michael Turner in their lives.

Mr Gove: in case you're reading this,  our mission this year, one billion women will rise for sex and relationship education to be made compulsory in all schools. We don't care about compost and fractals, empower our children to learn safety in relationships in order to end all forms of violence against women.

To all the women there tonight who made me feel safe again, grounded and in my core, I love everyone of you.  To all the billion women who will be raped across the planet this year,  we will rise for you.

Sometimes you just have to dance it out.