I am sailing, I am sailing!

    I first sailed at the age of six or seven in a dinghy called ‘Respectable Street’ with many sharp things for a child to kneel on. I hated it, and with blood running from my knee to the bottom of the boat, I cried until Dad took us in. So, thirteen years, several regattas, one whisky tumbler prize, lots of kit and four boats later, I’m at another race series!
    I started yacht racing (wow, that sounds expensive…it is…) last year, as part of a crew for a friend of my parents. She’s a J105, his boat, a 10.5 metre long boat and she’s wonderful. I didn’t think sailing could get better, but it did. I did inshore racing for last year and most of this year, and earlier in the year I did my first offshore race. It was amazing! Working as a watch system, 6 hours on, 4 hours off constantly until the end point of the race, it was great! I tend to always expect something to break on a boat and have to recover from it in the race, which means I’m not disappointed if it does. In this case, she seemed out to prove me wrong, flying along and taking chunks of time out of the rest of the fleet. And then it got to midnight. And there was a ‘thunng’ noise. Quite loud. And skipper did go “What was that?!” And the three of us on watch looked wildly around the boat to try and find the source of the expensive noise. And noticed the spinnaker pole was kinked off to the left. And that this meant it must have broken. And commented this to Skip. And he did swear loudly. And then it came off completely. And the lad coming on watch was woken by “Get on deck! The kite pole’s gone!”. So a nice morning wake up then! We managed to retrieve the pole and recover the sail at midnight next to Guernsey without anyone getting hurt or too wet, which was brilliant. The moon that caused the tidal race that broke the pole meant this was possible without torches. I helmed a bit overnight and saw the sunset and sunrise at sea, and it’s the most breathtaking site on the earth.
    I’ve also done Cowes week this year, the biggest yacht regatta of its type, and this time Bobbi and Dad were there too! They sailed an interesting boat called a Victory, described as Bobbi as “a horrible, slow tub. That’s constantly slowly sinking”. We didn’t win, and neither did they, but it was fun.
    Now I’m waiting for fog to lift to go sailing again, and with a crew that gets on really well. I love yacht racing. Racing as a crew, working together, socialising and succeeding (or not!) together. The dimensions and dynamics are bigger, and while I’ll never stop dinghy sailing, yacht racing has a special place in my heart.

D-Day Anniversary

   As you may know, today is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, also known as the Normandy Landings. Operation Neptune, the landings, were part of Operation Overload, a meticulously planned invasion of France by the Allied forces.  The invasion involved 132000 troops from the UK, USA, Canada , New Zealand and Australia, and troops from Belgium, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway.
Following an aerial and naval bombardment, and airborne assault (24,000 troops landing just after midnight), the landings began at 0630 over a 50 miles stretch of coastline, divided into five areas: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha.
The action resulted in 12000 casualties; 4414 confirmed deaths.
I think it’s also fitting to remember the German soldiers that died during those battles. Of course we have no thanks for their actions, but many were good and brave men, who happened to have been born German and were forced to fight a war they did not believe, did not understand or had no choice in. Their sacrifice, while the ‘wrong’ side, was no less great.

   We live today in freedom because of the brave actions of those Allied soldiers, and the many people that made this come about. We cannot comprehend what landing on that beach at 18 years old must have felt like, or to be one of a number, lost in the fight and known only to God and the grieving.

   Thank you. Thank you. May we learn from the price you paid how dear our freedom is. May we never waste it.

   When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow, we gave our today.

They shall grown not old, as we that are left grow old,
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.


Strange But True

Strange fact not even my friends and family are probably aware of: I always wanted to have a go at being a cheerleader. When I went to uni, I actually was going to go to their ‘Have a Go’ session. But the pisstaking stopped me. Strange how machoism can apply to girls too. I guess I liked it because I saw the American videos of high-level cheering as a young teenager and, like anything at competition level, the fitness levels and workouts looked hard work. And therefore I wanted a go. And also I loved gymnastics as a child; I am more flexible than most people, and I loved the strength and balance and…is grace the right word?…involved in the stunts.

Not so hung up on the uniforms though. And hair ribbons. As a uniform. Really?!

EDIT: having looked back at this in the light of day, I’ll amend that the idea of tumbling and human pyramids and stunts that involve lifting and throwing people looked fun to do. The uniforms are vile, the idea of waving pompoms around and singing on a sideline is stupid and any club that requires make up has a few massive flaws. And the idea of ‘cheerleading’ is a bit…icky. So, what I actually meant was: I wanted to do gymnastics. That’s a bit of a different conclusion. Hmm, I shouldn’t post in the middle of the night!



I know it’s long, and I know that some of you are aware there’s a problem here, but please, watch it. They deserve at least that much.

This video, as you may know if you’ve watched it, or you’re a good guesser, is about rape in the US military. And about how that rape is constantly brushed under the carpet and covered up. About how the women are often charged with adultery when their rapist is married. How injuries caused from violent rape caused their discharge and loss of income. How the military ‘loses’ their medical documents. How it is a culture there, entrenched.

Terrible, we say. It couldn’t happen here, we say. Yeah. Right. I know nothing about the legal aspect in this country, but I don’t think it’s too far of a leap. There is a culture here too. A culture of drinking and sex, the ultimate ‘lad’ culture. A culture that makes it acceptable for a training officer to wake up on the floor of a student’s room with several other students after a night out, none of them able to remember the events of the night before, and that to be OK. For attendance of various social events to be compulsory, and going to the mess after every training night to be compulsory, or you are ‘not dedicated’, ‘weird’, ‘a failure to your platoon’, and that to be OK. To be told, a recruit, 2 months in, ‘you haven’t slept with someone in the unit yet, you’re the only one. Come on, take one for the team’, and that to be OK. For me to not do this, and have rumours of beastiality spread about me, and that to be OK. I never asked, but, of course, it’s just a joke.
For someone who is genuinely scared of social situations, this is horrible. And it’s not just my unit. On training with another unit, in a very hot summer, to feel dizzy on a long tab (march) and ordered to get a lift in the van, against protest, and to then be told when they failed me the course ‘the men need a commander who won’t flake out in 30°C of heat’. To be told part of the reason for my failure was the fact that I cried after they told me I’d failed (not even in their sight, I don’t know how they knew). To have one of the assessing officers scream at me to run up and down a hill three times carrying about a quarter of my body weight in kit, while he stood at the bottom yelling , and have his assessment stand. He ranked me extremely lowly on all points, at odds with all the other assessing reports I was given prior to that. The lad who was with me, and my section, all expressed the opinion he was bullying me. I don’t like being bullied, so I went to the commanding officer and raised the fact that I thought the report was unfair. He agreed. The report was a pass. I was failed. I was in the top 5 for all of the graded tests. Three people on that course were failed. They were all girls. The boys who failed command tasks completely, who were condescending and demeaning to their unit while in command (a big deal on a command course!), who were elected by the rest of the course as incompetent and unpleasant, all passed. They could give me no solid reason for the fail. Nearly a year later, the promised course report never materialised.
On a national selection event, I fell and fractured a vertebra in my back (this is why there has been radio silence for a while. I’m not going to go into detail about that, but no-one needs to read my opiate-fuelled rambling!). I was failed that selection too. I completed two assault courses and 3 command tasks, along with many classroom based tests, with a fractured vertebra. And no pain relief. I would take the weight of my upper body on my arms instead of sitting in a chair and lie on a sofa or anywhere flat when not being directly assessed because it hurt less. I was failed for being ‘too withdrawn’. There was no medical care offered, apart from ‘you don’t want to go to A&E do you?’. On a selection event? Voluntarily miss testing? No thanks. Oh, of course there was always the option of going into a room alone while a male first aider took my clothes off to look at it. Again, no thanks. I was failed for being too withdrawn and not engaged enough. With a fractured vertebra and no pain relief. There was no mention of my accident on the report, my unit had no idea.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just about rape. There is a culture of objectification, prejudice and a lack of translucency that is entrenched, being encouraged from recruitment onwards. Much of this, such as odd failures, is not just women, but it occurs much more to females. I am aware the above may sound bitter, and it hurts. I was always a good soldier, and now I am failing for reasons I’m not even aware of. I asked my section and they were stunned at the failures, having been with me all of the summer course and seeing no reason for failure. I have, however, spoken to other girls about this and received very similar comments. You have to ‘play the game’ to get anywhere. You are automatically treated as a weaker member of the section because you are female, incompetent, only good for looking at, and sleeping with. I have known people leave, sick of being a disposable ‘lay’. Of being passed around to try and get the notice and respect they are entitled to by acting in the only way that gets them attention.

Can we please stop treating our soldiers as objects to be taken in, used and broken and then thrown away?

Some small sense

We fight and wonder at how a country can find this form of behaviour acceptable, never mind to pass it into law. How the ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill can possibly be happening. How Ugandans, as people just like us and no more or less intelligent, can believe this to be right and true. How the words of American missionaries can skew an entire nation’s perceptions.

I wondered this too. And then I saw this photograph:


And now in some small sense I understand a little. This photograph shows a Ugandan boy’s hand in the hand of a missionary. I understand why people listened to them. Because the missionaries brought food to stop their children starving, while the rest of world impassively watched. The missionaries gave their children’s lives back. How could you not listen?

And now as a world we cry unfair. And it is unfair, it is more than unfair. It is horrible, unjust and cruel. But we left their children to starve. How can we cry unfair?

A thought, an opinion. Not an oppression.

Many of my friends have Tumblr, and proclaim that it’s excellent. As a blogging platform, it’s nice to see what they have to write. What gives me a slightly repulsed and itchy feeling about it is the morality of it. Some of the things said on there definitely deserve publicity and people to be aware, but how aware do the majority of people become from something on Tumblr? A very small proportion of the internet use Tumblr, and it is a social *media* platform. Not a social change one. So slating people who were brought up in a different time, or attacking countries and organisations on the internet does, in reality, very little to help those it should. Sometimes the reasons are justified, sometimes it is an overreaction.

For example, there was much talk about a boycott of the Olympics. I believe this would be a silly idea, it would not send a clear message about any laws in place, it would allow the Russian government to segregate further from the West that is demonising their country, an image that many Russians have already. And the Western media does kind of pillory them over anything, but anyway… But we can all agree that the laws there are unacceptable, as are the laws in Uganda and Iran and other countries, and there have been suggestions that the companies such as Google and the Guardian should start sending money to them to counter the money their governments are using to persecute LGBT+ people. While the persecution is terrible, this idea is almost breathtakingly daft. These organisations are companies, businesses, not charities. It is not their role to aid those in peril, and they would have no way of going about it. Also, where do you stop? Is it practical to suggest that all companies should use their profits to counter all inequality in the world, to stop prejudice and help every starving child, every women not allowed to drive or leave the house? These companies are Western companies, they are nothing to do with the countries in question. When Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other countries intervene, they are doing it with a vast knowledge of the situation on the ground, how to act and react and how best to help those that need it. Tumblr and Google are neither of these, with none of the associated abilities. This would, again, allow the political uproar from the governments in question and the closing of international borders, leading the situation for those inside to be worse, and the world simply not to know.

Although the authors of such posts protest for equality so vehemently, they show a startling lack of practising what they preach. Many of the posts there are satire, and although many know this, a worrying number do not realise it’s just not true. Did they not research before posting? For example, the story that suggested that the person in charge of the rings opening at the Winter Olympics in Sochi was found murdered was satire, as most people know, and could be discovered with a quick Google. But many people believed it. And after Nelson Mandela died, a poster was posted saying David Cameron was a ‘top member’ a student organisation that wore ‘Hang Mandela’ T-shirts and went on an anti-sanctions fact finding mission to South Africa with a pro-apartheid group. Actually, as could also be found with a quick Google, there was no evidence that Cameron was ever connected to the T-shirts, conservative university groups at the time did wear them, but there is no evidence Cameron was involved, and he said at the time that the mission was wrong. Also, although one of the greatest men there has ever been, Mandela came to the conclusion that the ANC ‘had no alternative to armed and violent resistance’ and advised others to request weaponry from the People’s Republic of China. The atrocities associated with illegal gun running notwithstanding, or that I mean to use this as a negative slur to his character, hardly Gandhi. And was this mentioned? No, it was not. Cameron was betrayed as a nasty liar. Whatever you believe of the situation, I hardly think that’s fair. Many other things have also been twisted out of proportion. The Manning case, for instance. Manning is portrayed as a ‘political prisoner, relegated to the rubbish heap of US history’, and says Manning ‘spoke up’ against people who remain free. Certainly they do, unless you wish to arrest the Department of Defence and almost every military organisation on the planet. Manning is treated as a guiltless target. What about the servicemen and women whose positions and identities were revealed by this, risking or potentially losing their lives? What about those nationals who worked with the military, now identified for their families and themselves to be in danger? Are they of no consequence? Or do they not matter to the posters, because they simply have not thought of them, caught up in the drama on their screen? Again, hardly fair.

Tumblr is an ‘ain’t it awful, someone should do something’ idea. But who? Are they doing anything? The view presented is not balanced; while the perfect world may be the ideal, it will not come overnight without removal of freedom or individuality, and even then it would not work. Our perfect world will probably never happen; we cannot stop pain, suffering and disaster, it’s a part of existence. So while you strive to your dream, which no-one should abandon, who will protect the world we have?

I am aware it’s slightly ‘keyboard warrior’ writing this, but I am not trying to change anything, neither am I saying anything should be done. I am not trying to impress my opinion upon others, I am simply putting it down. But it is not the same as those on Tumblr. Does that make it wrong?