World Mental Health Day – a little story

Enough time has passed since it happens that I think I can share this without giving away who the person is, just in case anyone on here knows them. Highly doubtful, but discretion is important.
 
I’m on a few online forums, chat groups and so on. I was browsing posts and status updates on one a couple of months ago when I saw a status: “Had enough. Just can’t take any more.” That was it. Nobody I knew, but popped up on the group updates.
 
So I dropped them a quick message. Just a couple of lines offering them someone to talk to if they wanted, including my phone number. If they didn’t want to talk to me, I advised them to call a friend or see a GP.
 
Three days later they replied. They’d read my message, called a taxi and gone to A&E where they explained to someone there what was going through their mind. They were cared for, settled down and put onto the track to recovery.
 
I don’t know what would have happened if I’d not messaged. Maybe they’d have been fine anyway. Maybe that was the kick they needed. But something that took me a fraction of the time it’s taken to draft this post, I feel, made a difference that evening – and a very important one.
 
Keep an eye out for each other, and that includes people you don’t know. It takes a moment to ask if someone’s OK and a simple act of caring can make all the difference.

Not-a-review: The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett

Paulo "paper books always" Carvalho's review of The Light FantasticJust finished this as a bedtime story with my youngest who insisted, as we were 10 pages from the end last night, that she tuck up in bed again this afternoon to complete it before she went back to her mum’s. And then insisted that we dig out all my other Pratchett books so we can work through them.

With the number of them, she’ll be reading (or re-reading) them herself by the time we get ten books through. She’s 8 and she’s loved the first two Discworld ones. I wanted to sidestep to Truckers or Carpet People but she wants to continue into Equal Rites. I’m not going to argue!

Also, I don’t remember the end of Light Fantastic being so sad when I first read it – but since then I’ve been Twoflower. The line “You haven’t really been anywhere until you’ve got back home” really hit home, in the same way as Douglas Adams’ “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

George Floyd – two children’s reaction

One of Niamh’s games wasn’t working this evening as the people who ran it had opted to take it down for two hours in memory of some chap called George Floyd. “I don’t even know who he is!” she says.

“Well,” I told her, “He was a man who was arrested, basically for being black. And even though he was trying to do as he was told, the police knelt on his neck while he complained he couldn’t breathe for almost 9 minutes… and he died.”

Austin pipes in, “He was arrested for being black? When was this, like 50 years ago?”

“No – just over a week ago.”

It makes me glad that we’ve obviously raised great kids when their reaction was complete silence and looks of disbelief. They’re 7 and 12 and have more common sense and humanity than far too many supposed “grown ups”.

#BlackLivesMatter

There are reasons I don’t bake…

Niamh is always on at me to do baking in the flat, something that’s a bit of a struggle due to space, lack of equipment and the small oven that doesn’t have the middle shelf that every damn recipe tells me to use. Regardless, we had another attempt today. Needless to say, it didn’t go quite to plan. As ever.

What we should have got…

Courtesy of the local library, Niamh came home with a copy of The Best Ever Baking Book by Jane Bull. A nice volume, not too many recipes, most of which are quite simple and require the most basic of ingredients and kit. So we picked up one or two things from Morrisons (being stuck behind two of the world’s slowest people at the self-serve) and enlisted Austin’s assistance. The recipe chosen was shortbread, and the ideas in the book suggested adding chocolate, peanuts, sweets and so on. All good.

OK, major issue one is that I don’t own any scales. I keep meaning to get some but I forgot (again) today, and I don’t even think the local Morrisons sells them anyway. Instead we decided to use maths and science to work out the ingredients. I think this is where it started to go wrong. Actually, caving to Niamh and agreeing to make the shortbread was probably the beginning of the end, but here we are.

Butter comes in 250g lumps, so I used a ruler to divide the block into five and sliced off two of them to give us out 100g. Caster sugar and flour both seem to have similar densities as water, which I found when I poured them into a measuring jug. 500g of each was a shade over 500ml. Convenient. Using this method, we got 50g of the former and 150g of the latter. Ish. Or thereabouts. Approximately.

Next came the mixing, which Austin thoroughly enjoyed (when not fighting Niamh off as she wanted to keep trying the raw mixture). We then took blobs of this and mixed them with various ingredients to make a ten biscuits (the recipe said 24), popped them onto a baking tray and popped them into the oven.

By ten minutes it was obvious things weren’t going quite to plan. Looking through the oven window it seemed we weren’t making biscuits but soup. Instead of crisping into bite-sized chunks, the shortbread was flattening out and bubbling like a pale witch’s brew. We ended up with one large segmented, soggy cookie; greasy and soggy and loaded with sugar it comes as no surprise that Austin wolfed down all of his, Niamh pretended to like hers and I ate my share out of sheer stubbornness and unwillingness to waste the ingredients. I’m going for “too much butter”.

Maybe I should get some scales.

Kind of in the spirit

Here’s today’s t-shirt, courtesy of Icelandic behemoths Skálmöld. While I may be atheist and very much a grump at this time of year, I think this shirt conveys the same kind of message. While a large portion of the world celebrates the nominated birth date of someone who apparently got nailed to a chunk of wood for suggesting that being nice to each other maybe would be worth a shot, the backprint of this t-shirt sums up the same message.

We’re all born equal. It’s individuals who choose to be arseholes. Don’t be an arsehole, instead help the world be a nicer place. And if anyone wants to try and nail me to something for saying so, then they’re welcome to try.