That was close: a train, a teenager and a track

Last night at about 9 pm, I was sat on a train between Manchester and Liverpool waiting to visit family. I’d already missed my earlier connection due to a late train from York, and I was absolutely bloody knackered.

All of a sudden, though, our train jerked calmly to a stop. Within all of 30 seconds, we were still on the line, passengers silent, an eerie sense of tranquility through our carriage. Something was wrong, we all knew that; but what? Nobody knew.

Twenty minutes went by as passenger after passenger tapped away at their phone, a bleak reminder of the ever-connected world we live in, even in the midst of darkness on a cool August evening on the outskirts of Manchester.

All of a sudden, the conductor came into our carriage and told us that our train had been involved in an incident. We were calmly told that we were waiting for the emergency services and Network Rail to arrive on the scene.

Of course, in this day in age, my first thought was terrorism: a suspect bag, a person making threats, a weird smell. It’s all you ever hear about on the news, across social media, warnings cascading down right from Central Government level.

Then, all of a sudden, we got told: “we’ll be moving again when the driver is okay”. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces: we’d stopped because there was somebody on the line. The driver thought he’d killed somebody, injured someone, taken a life.

We waited in silence, other than one woman who kept staring, taking photographs and saying out loud that she just wanted a burger. I was shocked out of my mind: a family would be getting the worse news imaginable, and her only concern was a burger.

I looked my brother straight in the face and remarked, as loud as I could without screaming him to sleep, “Some people are so disrespectful, aren’t they, Kian? You’d think it was disaster tourism for them.” She quickly shot me a dirty look and continued. Idiot!

Not long afterward, the conductor came over the tannoy. He calmly and politely informed us that the British Transport Police, Ambulance Service and Network Rail’s Mobile Operations Team had arrived, and we’d be moving as quickly as we could. I didn’t care.

My entire journey seemed insignificant, not even worthy of thought, when it became apparent that a family would be getting a knock at the door that night from the Police, giving them news very few of us ever could imagine receiving. My heart bled for them.

Shortly following that, however, the conductor came back in to our carriage. He confirmed that we would be moving, but again, it seemed trivial considering what we believed had just happened just moments ahead of our seats.

But then… “we missed a teenager by a few inches”. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, grateful that no matter how the teenager was feeling, we had missed them by a few inches. I simply hope that they get the help they need and deserve, no matter why they were on the line.

Next time your train is delayed, think not of the meeting you will miss, your late lunch or the cold coffee. Think of the family who will be torn, the driver who will relive what they have seen forever, the emergency services picking up the pieces, literally in many cases.

If you’re struggling, please reach out to somebody, whether that’s family, friends or an organisation who can help. In Europe, you can make a free call to 116 123 for help from trained counsellors. You can even reach out to me if you just want somebody to listen.

My love goes out to the teenager, their family, the driver and conductor (who I gave a massive hug and thanked!), and the brave emergency services who run toward danger while we run away, day in, day out. They are our nation’s heroes.

C x

Follow Friday: 24 August

Today is Friday. I suppose you probably know that, seeing as you’re so eager for the weekend. I am, anyway — I get to visit my beautiful grandmother, see my incredible younger brother and sleep the weekend away.

But before we get there, I wanted to share the names of a few lovely people who have backed me, supported me and helped me on my blogging journey. These people aren’t necessarily all bloggers — indeed, a few aren’t — they’re just such kind people that we all need yet don’t deserve. I am forever indebted to them.

Bibi’s Book Blog

Not only is Bibi a client of my web development business (shameless plug, I know!), but she’s also an incredible friend and a talented writer. While I can’t say too much at this stage, we’ll be working together soon on some more stuff very publicly so watch this space! She truly is a pleasure to work with, even if she nags me when I’m forgetful. It’s my own fault.

ELSSTHINKS

A talented writer covering crime, mystery and intrigue — some of my favourite topics of all — Elise is not only an incredible writer but comes across as such a kind person too. I asked her for some help a while ago, and she got sidetracked meaning she didn’t respond. When she eventually got in touch, she was so apologetic about the entire thing, which made me laugh as she owed me nothing.

I think it’s also important to note that she writes about things that are so important in this day in age (yet shouldn’t be), such as the Ask for Angela campaign, a discreet way to keep those going on dates safe when first meeting somebody, by offering them an escape route if things turn sour. We shouldn’t need anything like that in this day in age, but that’s a whole new blog post.

Grace Marsh

One of the North’s finest — if such a thing were ever said about the North — Grace is tall, blonde and blind. Of course, you’re now wondering why I’ve made a point of her being blind, and that’s because she writes with such prose, elegance and honesty on such a disability that many of us will never understand, let alone face. She’s also pretty funny, especially if you tell her that your name is Robbie Duckworth. Honestly, try it, but don’t tell her I told you so. She’d kill me!

She’ll also always be that sweet girl who gave me the rest of her drink in McDonald’s, so I approve. 11/10.

Helen at RY Midlands

Blimey, where do I even start? Helen is a volunteer with the Midlands branch of Respect Yourself, a charitable organisation “believing in young people and bringing communities together”. Not only does she put so much effort into supporting young people despite her own troubles and problems but she’s proactive in reaching out to those in need, and offering nothing but a strong listening ear.

Suffice to say that I have today nominated her for a Pride of Britain Award as Helen epitomises everything that a role model should be. She is truly an inspiration, not only to Respect Yourself or myself, but to our nation and the world at large. Thank you, Helen, for all that you do for us.

Kira Davies

While Kira and I met through the strangest and saddest of circumstances (and her sister hates me for no reason, LOL.), she is easily one of the strongest people I know! Despite difficult personal circumstances as of late, her perseverance and courage in getting better is nothing short of truly incredulous to me and I have a great deal of respect for her. She’s also an incredibly talented special effects makeup artist, who I can see going far.

GCSE Results Day 2018

So today is GCSE Results Day. It’s the day many young people dread, and for good reason: GCSEs trail around you your entire life unless you’re old enough to remember O Levels. Or even older, perhaps? God knows what they had back in your day… caves, fire and the wheel?

Anyhow, I just picked up my results for GCSE English today. I should probably give you some background. I missed a lot of time in school last year and the year before due to mental health issues and ended up resitting Year 11. It’s not much fun, but you get to blend in with the Year 10s and make new friends. If you’re not as socially awkward as me, that is. Lol at me.

I got a 4 last year, which is equivalent to a D. A bad result, some may say — you need a C or above for many jobs — but all I say is it’s better than a 3. That’s how these stupid new numbers, made to replace the letters which worked perfectly well, work, right? Don’t fix it if it’s not broken, DfE! Anyway, without further ado: I got a 7 today, equivalent to an A!

For someone who’s come so far over the last year, struggled with various personal issues and fallen behind, I am so chuffed. Until, of course, I wonder if I’ve picked someone else’s results up. Maybe I ought to read the results slip again. Anyhow, I should offer my thanks to a few really important people who’ve helped me get to this stage. I wasn’t paid to say this, I promise. No, really, I wish I had been but no, they turned my invoice down and my cheque bounced. Do people even use cheques these days?

Firstly, let me thank my secondary school English teacher Laura for her patience and persistence when I was absent. She just, I don’t know, understood. She made English a lot more fun too, with her bubbly personality and the ability to have a good laugh at Shakespeare when he was talking shite.

I also owe massive thanks to my English teacher Briony at York College. She’s put so much effort in to teaching us this year, amongst the constant fits of laughter at her inability to tell the time. We all mocked her every lesson, but we owe our future successes to her work, so thank you. Our class owes you one big pitcher.

Going forward, I also must offer my thanks to N (my progress tutor), K (my learning support mentor) and the various teaching assistants who have supported me through the past year. Through their understanding when I’ve been down in the dumps, and their infectious laughter when I’ve been up in the clouds, I’ve gotten to where I have now. I owe you all a million.

Finally, let me ask: when teachers are those who put their life and soul into getting us our future, why do we pay them so little, treat them with such contempt and take them for granted every single day? To every teacher who has got me to this stage, right from Nursery: thank you. If our paths cross, the first round is on me.

C x

Facebook Publishing is Changing: Help for Bloggers

As you may or may not know, the ability for apps to publish to Facebook is changing. As a result of the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook have changed their platform so that apps will no longer be able to publish directly to profiles.

This means that Publicise, built natively into WordPress.com and into self-hosted blogs via the Jetpack plugins, will no longer be able to share your new posts to Facebook automatically if you’re using your personal profile rather than a Facebook page. However, you have two options:

Manual route

Your first is to go down the manual route. When you publish a new post, copy its URL and share the link in a new Facebook post. This is a pain if you’re scheduling posts, as other solutions such as Hootsuite and Buffer will also be affected by this new limitation.

If you want to post scheduled posts, your best bet is to link your Facebook profile up with your Twitter account and schedule them on Twitter with WordPress Publicise, Hootsuite, Buffer, or any tool of your choice.

While this option may stop working at any time dependent on Facebook’s platform changes, it’s your best bet — and indeed your only bet — at this stage. I’m looking into alternatives and I’ll share them when I know more, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed!

New Facebook page

Your other option is to convert your Facebook profile to a page. While it probably isn’t the best solution for you personally, it’s worth considering if your blog focuses on your business or brand. Not a great option, but one I use, so go and like my Facebook page!

Which option are you planning to take? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to help you iron out any problems which come your way. Best of luck!

C x

An Open Letter to E

A bit back, I met a blind 18-year-old blogger on Twitter. Her perseverance struck me when we began talking, because I find it difficult to blog at the best of times and I’m blessed with the gift of working sight!

Recently, we have grown increasingly closer, and I have grown increasingly in awe of her. I wanted to put pen to paper (alright, fingers to keyboard — smart arse!) to pen (haha, get it?) a few words about her, and pay tribute to her courage.

Though I shan’t name her, I’m not entirely sure that it’d be hard to find her if you were that way inclined. For the record, the name she uses to blog/on social media isn’t her real name, so stop trying to stalk her before you even try. Else, you’ll have me on your back…!

Dear E,

I don’t even know where to start with this, to be honest. I’m shit at writing letters, but you’re worth a bloody good shot. Okay, that sounds like a threat to shoot you. I wouldn’t do that. Promise.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I want to say with this. I just want to make sure you know how much I admire you, and how in awe I am of your perseverance in the face of an obstacle I can’t even begin to understand.

It’s impossible to describe in the English language how wonderstruck I am by your ability to write so descriptively of the world, despite never having seen it with your own eyes. Descriptive writing is a talent incredibly hard to master, but you’re just about there.

To be honest, this feels special. It feels like we’ve known each other all of our lives, like I could trust you with my deepest and darkest secrets (I’ve not even got any, but we’ll ignore that in the name of cringe!), and like I could tell you absolutely anything without fear of being judged.

While you might never see the way my eyes light up when you text me, how my mind explodes when I read your work, or how I smile when I see your name mentioned, I promise you one thing: I will make sure that you always see and know how much you mean to me, for as long as I live.

C x

If you can handle cringe, you may as well subscribe for more — to the left on desktop, to the bottom on mobile! In the meantime, share this with friends, family and so on: they may be secret lovers of cringe. Oh, and I can take pretty photographs sometimes (ironic, considering this post is about a blind girl, but hey ho).

Till next time,
C x

Entrepreneur, former journalist and volunteer