Guardian Angel


The Guardian Prize Cryptic Crossword

I’m winding forwards, as is my wont, to the here and now, because I wanted to share some good news… that Jayne phoned to say I’d won the Guardian Prize Crossword the Saturday before last!  A parcel had arrived, and a letter congratulating me on my win.

It’s not the prize that’s important it’s the kudos, which I’m sure other crossword freaks out there will appreciate.

My late mother taught me how to do the “croggy” many years ago and it’s been a passion ever since.  On my travels, during the trials and tribulations, the Guardian Cryptic Crossword has been my friend and saviour on many occasions, when I could lose myself, forget the loneliness, kick out the black dog, get into the head of the compiler and take him or her on.  To complete the grid, as I did last Saturday week, fills me with great satisfaction, pride and a sense of achievement.  To win it fills me with great joy and smugness.

On a Saturday I’ll always hear from my friend Ralph, who likes to wave his cock when he’s finished before me, as I like to wave mine when the opposite is the case… which I admit is rare.  But while we’re in the business of waving cocks, let me say that this is my THIRD triumph, having collected prizes from The Observer and The Times.  So Ralph, if you’re reading, put your cock away and put that in your pipe and smoke it!

It doesn’t take much to please me really, and while my life’s been an utter shambles there are certain things now that are putting it right, this being one of them.  So while I’m smiling and as it’s Friday I thought we could have a little fun – hence if there are any crossword buffs among my loyal readers, here’s the clue:

It’s too much for the Queen to get going in vehicle (11)

I’m afraid there will be no prize for the first correct entry, just kudos and (if you’re a bloke) a chance to wave your cock.


Don’t Rain on My Parade

At school we used to have “Rainy Day Play” which meant it was pissing down and playtime was spent indoors breathing in other pupils’ farts instead of fresh air.  In truth it didn’t have to be pissing down; the first spot on the window pane had teachers gleefully banning the opening of doors.  It feels like that where I am today as I’m forced to stay inside the Ottermobile.  I’d planned a 10-mile hike but the professor in me saw the rain and vetoed the idea.  So I’m doing a lot of thinking, especially about the reactions to yesterday’s diary entry, which applaud my attempt to add to the growing Social Media noises about depression.  In entries to follow I promise more adventures and to be frivolous again, but as a last word for now on the subject, and to hopefully raise even more awareness, I ask a simple question: Are people with depression unemployable?

Back in 2011 The Guardian ran a piece about whether or not to disclose to your employer that you have a mental illness, a horrible dilemma I outlined in yesterday’s post.  The article cited a couple of examples where the person chose to “out” themselves and found it to be beneficial, but argued in balance that that isn’t universally the case.  So that was six years ago and you’d hope things might’ve improved immensely since then.  But given that 1 in 4 British people per year suffer in some way from depression, stress or anxiety, it worries me that though the issue is now more recognised and taken more seriously, there remains some doubt about whether employers really do “get it.”

This is of course regarding people who are in work, but what about those who find themselves unemployed?  On the positive side, more than 450 employers so far have signed the Time to Change Pledge, but there is a lot more to be done.  The Mind website makes interesting reading with regards to their campaign to lobby the Government with ideas for a more radical and workable back-to-work scheme.  The case studies on the site particularly intrigue me; there are many people in the position I describe – they want to work but find themselves tied up in red tape and Jobcentre bureaucracy, in some cases professional people with excellent skills, qualifications and career histories being advised to attend a course on how to write a CV!  It isn’t the Jobcentre’s fault, they’re merely following guidelines, but it’s time to realise the guidelines are archaic and only serve to make an applicant more demoralised than they were in the first place.  The guidelines can only change when attitudes change.

I think that whether you’re in work or not, one of the difficulties of mental illness in the context I’m discussing, is that it is ‘invisible’.  Whereas a person with flu (for example only) might display symptoms, a person with depression can on the outside look the picture of health.  A person with depression can laugh and joke, so on the surface he or she seems absolutely fine, and it’s therefore no wonder to be fair that people might not notice or understand it.  But on the inside the person is suffering, often privately and spiralling in the way I posited yesterday.

When I was in Bradford recently I visited someone I know well who is undergoing chemotherapy.  We talked about music and lots of things and had some laughs, but we also talked about work, and his employers being supportive.  Which is just as well, he said, because if he lost his job who would employ a man in his mid-fifties with cancer?  I knew what he meant but it shocked me; it was almost like someone saying Who would employ me because I’m non-white, gay, disabled?

In one of my previous jobs in TV I was responsible for finding new talent and addressing the issue of diversity.  It’s a difficult job but I’m pleased to say I had some success.  But we can always and should always do more to open doors for the broadest cross-section of society.  We can do more for ethnicity, we can do more for those with disabilities, and given that statistically 25% of society has mental illness, we can do more for that section too.

I’ve made thousands of bad calls in my life but one of the worst was not putting by for a rainy day.  If I’d known (or in truth been less naive) about how my illness would affect my career, I might not have made that mistake.  But you live and learn eventually.  And though it’s a “rainy day” today I’m going for that walk after all.  I’ve got my van and I’ve got places to see, adventures to find, fun to have and frivolousness to deliver.  Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter.