We could see Lokrum island from the terrace of our apartment when we went to Dubrovnik last year (read more about it here). We watched boats sailing across the short stretch of sea from the harbour, we saw people sea kayaking towards it and we did a loop of the island in our speed boat trip on the first afternoon.
The next step was to actually get on to the island and explore it for ourselves!
Passenger ferries run from the mainland harbour on a regular basis, and the cost is very reasonable (I’m being vague here because I can’t remember, it’s been almost a year since we were there and I’ve been a lax blogger in posting about it!). The journey takes 10-15 minutes and is very popular, so if you have a specific timescale in mind, make sure you get there early (similarly for the return journey, people queue in advance).
Lokrum is a National Park
Similarly to old town Dubrovvnik, Lokrum was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones – many of the scenes in the city of Qarth were filmed there (then heavily CGI’d, so it’s not obviously recognisable).
There’s a small GoT exhibition, which is mainly in Croatian, but you do get to sit on a replica of the Iron Throne, which is kinda fun!
Outside of that there are some attractive benedictine monastery ruins, a botanical garden (which was past its best, tbh), free roaming peacocks and rabbits and an inland Dead Sea which many people swim in (which was VERY cold and VERY awkward to get into because of the rocks underfoot).
Sea swimming is also very popular, and there are nudist areas around the coastline, if that tickles your fancy!
Lokrum island is a national park, and no-one is allowed to stay overnight – the island is vacated by 7.30 every evening. It’s very green and relaxing, but there isn’t an awful lot to do there. It’s definitely worth a visit, as long as you have the right expectations (or just want to chill out and do nothing!)
As I said in my previous post, Dubrovnik is a very beautiful city and one that I would recommend to anyone. It would be daft not to visit Lokrum unless you were desperately short of time, and the ferry journey also gives you a different view of the city looking back into the old harbour.
I still have the t-shirt I was wearing on the day my Dad died. I remember dressing in a mad panic after receiving the early morning unexpected phonecall that I needed to get to the hospital. Most probably I grabbed it from the floor (I’m an untidy person); fumbling as I got dressed, pulling on my jeans and trying to fasten my shoes. Every second was precious, I needed to jump in my car and get to my Dad before it was too late.
As it happened my Dad’s last day was a long one. I wore that t-shirt right through into the early hours of the morning, after he’d died and we’d left the hospital. In the rush I hadn’t showered or brought a change of clothes with me, but none of it seemed to matter.
That t-shirt sits in my wardrobe, and I see it every so often when I flick through my clothes. It’s survived a house move and multiple wardrobe culls but I haven’t worn it since that day. I guess I can’t bring myself to, but I also don’t want to part with it.
Last night, getting changed to potter in the garden and have barbecue food for dinner, my fingers skimmed over the t-shirt. On a whim I pulled it on with a pair of jeans. I’m not sure what I expected to feel, but I decided not to think it through too much. Instead I went out into the evening sun, tidied up some of the garden beds, drank wine and laughed with my husband.
Now that t-shirt is more than just a distressing memory to me. It’s also a nice memory, of a Spring evening doing what I love. My Dad would have liked that.
Clothes, for me, are more than just clothes. They’re memories, thoughts, happiness, sadness, upset, drama. I closely associate clothes with emotions. If I”m wearing an outfit I don’t like it can ruin my whole day,.
But clothes, like feelings, can change. And last night I changed that t-shirt to a nicer thing. I think I’ll wear it more often.
How wonderful to see Meghan Markle in her first public appearance since the birth of little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. She looked beautiful – radiant, natural and just post-baby. Her still existent bump was refreshingly honest in a world of “perfect” celebs and their perfect figures.
Her tousled hair and fresh faced glow was very real. Her choice of outfit – belted and fitted and not designed to hide any post birth lumps and swellings – was lovely. The way she beamed at Harry as he cradled their newborn son was full of love and adoration.
I applaud her and Harry for taking the decision to appear publicly in their own time, when it suits them, rather than bowing to public pressure to do the traditional hospital steps photo call. Regardless of their status as royals and, as some would say, public property, they’re a young couple in love who’ve just welcomed their first child. It’s a special and precious time for them, and they shouldn’t have to stick to any timetable apart from one they’re comfortable with.
I also love the move away from tradition when it comes to baby Archie’s name. I don’t think anyone saw anything so “un-Royal” on the cards – especially the bookmakers who had the favourites down as Arthur or James. Not even a nod to royal tradition with the baby’s middle name either. I wonder if we’ll ever find out the reasoning behind Harrison? (I like to think Harry’s a secret Indiana Jones fan and has honoured Harrison Ford!)
Hopefully the press will leave them alone now to just be a family and enjoy these precious times.
What do you think of it all? Do you like the baby’s name Let me know in the comments.
No-one was more surprised than me when we booked up to go away at Easter for a weekend in Paignton. It wasn’t on our travel plans for 2019. Firstly, going away for Easter wasn’t even on the cards; we hadn’t even talked about it. Secondly, we haven’t been to Paignton in 11 years. The husband used to holiday there as a kid, and we went a couple of times early on in our relationship, but the economy took its toll on the English seaside town, like many others across the country, and we heard reports of closed pubs, boarded up frontages and a general feeling of rundown-ness which didn’t appeal.
So, what changed? We’d heard that the town had received investment and was in better shape. But what really swung it was watching Channel 4’s “Four in a Bed” programme, and talking fondly of staying in a UK guesthouse by the seaside. Fuelled by a couple of glasses of wine (as the best plans always are) our weekend in Paignton was booked!
What did we get up to?
We had loose plans of what we wanted to do over the course of our 3 night break (woo-hoo for a long weekend at Easter), but of course we knew we’d be held to ransom by the British weather. We needn’t have worried though. Like much of the UK, Paignton was bathed in wall to wall sunshine with higher than average temperatures, which meant we spent pretty much all of our time outside.
Out and about
We walked along the coast from Paignton and up to Roundham Gardens looking down on Goodrington Sands. You wouldn’t think that some of these views were in the UK, especially not in April!
We caught the Dartmouth Steam Railway train from Paignton to Kingswear, and then got the ferry across to Dartmouth.
Then we walked along the riverfront to Bayard’s Cove, before heading to the Above Town area and walking past coloured houses and through woods down to Dartmouth Castle.
There isn’t an awful lot to see at the castle, but there are some educational exhibitions and hands on things for kids like helmets to try (which, FYI, also fit adult heads too – I speak from experience), plus the views back down the river to Kingswear and Dartmouth were stunning. We got 20% off the entrance price with our steam railway ticket, so we only paid £6.60 each. It’s free if you’re a member of English Heritage, which we keep saying we’re going to join but never get round to, although I think it’s only a matter of time!
Then, on Sunday, we went to Paignton Zoo! It’s quite a hilly zoo, so probably not great for people with mobility issues. We saw lions, monkeys, giraffes, the elephant, zebras, ostriches and camels. The tigers weren’t out to play, which was a shame but we were super chuffed to see everything else. There are peacocks wandering freely around the paths too.
Have to be honest, I always overlook going away in the UK in favour of going overseas – mainly because of the weather situation! Let’s face it, our weekend in Paignton would have been very different if it had been raining; which there’s always a chance of during British summertime. That said, I’m so keen to see more of the South West. I’d happily do another weekend in Paignton. There’s so much to do in the area, including the other 2 English Riviera towns of Torquay and Brixham. I’m keen to explore some of Cornwall too.
Do you love visiting the UK? Any tips for where else I should put on my list?
Gender neutral parenting was in the press recently. More specifically, the press reported that Harry and Meghan, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are planning to raise their child gender neutral.
Of course this very probably isn’t what they’ve said at all. I’m sure they’ve said that they will raise their child without traditional gender constructs, which is what parents with any common sense do anyway. You know the thing – if they have a son and he wants to play with dolls that’s fine, and if their baby is a girl who wants to play with cars that’s also fine. That’s not gender neutral parenting at all. That’s just being a good parent. And a modern parent. Both of which Harry and Meghan are able to be, despite the fact that they’re royals.
He or she?
Gender neutral parenting is raising your child without acknowledging their gender. Not calling them he or she. Not referring to them as a boy or a girl. Allowing them to find their own way and decide on their gender as they grow up and experience life
Now I am neither a parent or ever have the intention of being one (regardless of the suggestions I mentioned in my last post!) so you may think my opinion is a moot one. That said, this is my blog and I pretty much have an opinion on everything, ergo I’ll proceed.
In a nutshell, I think that gender neutral parenting is absolutely bonkers. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll be aware that I have no issue with gender fluidity or changing gender. I very recently posted about an enlightening and heartwarming transgender documentary I’ve been watching. If you haven’t been following then let me make this statement – I very much believe that people can be and are born in the wrong body, and that they should be entitled to treatment to correct biology’s mistake. Science says it’s real, the experiences of actual humans say it’s real, and so, for me, it’s real.
But I’ll say it again, gender neutral parenting is, in my opinion, bonkers.
How are you supposed to know what you are, or more specifically what you aren’t, if you’re brought up without an identity? Surely transgender women know that they’re women, because they’ve been raised as a boy and know that doesn’t “fit”. And vice-versa, obviously. If you’re raised as “they” then what do you rebel against? You have nothing to identify with, and therefore nothing to compare yourself against, surely?
Imagine sending a child to nursery or childcare, and insisting they do not be referred to as he or she. Immediately you’re setting them apart as different; as deserving of special treatment. They get called a different pronoun to any of the other children, and the other children maybe want to know why? What toilet arrangements are made for them? Because, like it or not, male and female toilets are still a thing in life. Not everywhere, of course. But if a young child comes across male toilets and female toilets and no “they” toilet, what is that telling them? Isn’t that stripping them of an identity? Making them, from a young age, into something that doesn’t always exist?
The difference between adults and children
Gender neutral adults can handle situations like this – they’ve been around long enough to know that we live in a gendered society (even if they don’t agree with it). But young children don’t have that understanding. Why would you choose to set your child apart in such a way?
I’m no expert, obvs. Some would argue that starting with gender neutral parenting is the way to achieve a gender neutral society in the future. But, for now, I can’t help but think some parents are trying too hard to do the right thing, and in doing so they’re doing something very wrong.
Your child is born a girl or a boy. If at some point they tell you they’re the opposite of their assigned birth gender, listen to them. Support them. Be there for them. If they tell you they are neither male or female then the same applies.
That’s good parenting.
In the meantime, if your son wants to play with dolls and has a toy cooker, that doesn’t mean he has gender issues. If your daughter tells you she wants to be Superman instead of Superwoman, that doesn’t mean she’s transgender.
In trying to do the right thing, parents are going too far. They’re creating something that doesn’t need to exist at birth. Experience and research shows that children who are transgender will begin to self identify at a young age, regardless of what they have been labelled as in early months and years. Jazz Jennings is perhaps the most prevalent case of a boy knowing they’re a girl. Thankfully Jazz’s parents listened to her. Would gender neutral parenting from birth have helped? Who knows.
All I know is that if and when my nephew (due July this year) wants to try on my shoes, I’ll be right there suggesting the ones that look best with his outfit! Experiencing different things, with no restrictions because of what society might think is appropriate for your gender, is the best way to become a well rounded person.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!
The first time (to my knowledge) anyone assumed I was pregnant we were in Chicago. It was almost 9 years ago, for the husband’s 40th birthday. We were on a 3 night city break before going to LA. It was June and it was hot. We’d spent the evening at Dick’s Last Resort, a bar overlooking the Chicago River, eating and drinking with gay abandon. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (a big deal in ice hockey terms, I believe). We were caught up in the excitement of the city, of our holiday, and…well…life!
I remember I was wearing a fairly figure hugging halter neck maxi dress from Jane Norman. It was white with an oversized black and taupe palm print all over. And, as we walked across the bridge back to our hotel, an old seemingly homeless dude shouted “hey Mama!”
Did he think I was pregnant? I don’t know for sure. It made us laugh at the time because I was full of American sized portion fried food and drink from Dick’s Last Resort. I was a walking food baby. “Hey Mama!” became part of our vocabulary when I overate and looked like I was having twins. It was funny.
8 years later
Fast forward 8 years to last summer. We went to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena (side note, the obnoxious drunk wee throwing crowd spoilt it). As we approached security, after the LONGEST walk, the guy with the body scanner asked if I was pregnant. I feigned mock outrage. He said he has to ask everyone because of the scanning machinery (this was a lie, I asked my friends in other queues). In his defence I was wearing a really loose fitting smock dress. I was also clearly already “Saturday happy” (tipsy A.F) so I was either not preggers or a shit Mom-to-Be.
No human growing here
Although 8 years apart, these events both stuck in my mind. Partially because I think it’s kinda funny (I’m the least maternal person I know, so the very thought of me being with child is cause for mirth!) Obviously being pregnant is wonderful. But being mistaken for it isn’t the best. It’s not horrible, it means I have a full tummy and a day/evening of enjoyment behind me. But it kinda means it’s OK my tummy is protruding if there’s a human growing inside it, but not OK if not.
Here’s the deal. I have the Rose tum. That’s not a romanticised way of referring to my middle section. Rose is my Mom’s maiden name. My Nan, my Grandad, my Mom, they all carried or carry weight around their waist. I inherited my Dad’s dark hair and skin, and height. For a while it looked like I inherited his metabolism. I could eat and eat and EAT and not gain weight. But the Rose gene has caught up with me..
Most recently, in Athens, the husband and I had talked and laughed about the two pregnancy “occasions”. And, whilst we were sightseeing, he reticently (I hope!) told me he could see why it had been said. I’m so aware of my posture and being upright that, in standing up very straight, my tummy pushes out.
There’s also a photo that I love, taken in Santorini last year as I jumped off a catamaran into the sea, and the first thing I notice when I look at it is my rounded middle.
It’s such a shame that society has made us feel we have to explain being anything other than stick then with a flat stomach. It doesn’t make us more or less of a person. And I wish I could say “fuck it” and not care. There are, after all, WAY bigger things to care about in life. But I do. I do care. Mainly because I love clothes, and gaining weight means that some of my clothes no longer fit me as well as they used to, and I don’t feel comfortable in styles I would like to wear.
Funny how “Dad-bods” are celebrated, yet women’s bodies of all types are still insulted and commented upon!
I’m the kind of person who is pretty much always a year ahead with travel plans, because there are so many places I want to see. It’s rare to start a new year with no clue of where we’re going – the bones are usually in place and I’m already thinking ahead to the following year. When your “to visit” list is long and your annual leave is short (in comparison), it’s inevitable you’ll think ahead.
This year was quite the exception
With the shambles that is Brexit I’ve felt wary of European travel. Neither the husband or I had any concrete “let’s do this” feelings as a result. The original front runner was our favourite place in Greece, but with rumours that Thomas Cook airlines are in some trouble, which is our only way to get there, that seemed a bit risky.
Also, as it’s my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June, I thought we should plan a trip with her. There’s nothing we could buy her that she doesn’t already have, and memories are so much more valuable than stuff. I know that in years to come we’ll look back happily on time together exploring a new destination. And of course we’ll have a great time while we’re there!
So, without further ado, here’s what we decided on.
March – 5 days in Lanzarote
Not a “to visit” list destination but the thought of a few days in the sun while the UK is struggling to make it’s way into Spring was very appealing! Food, drink, sleep, reading books, seafront walks and sunshine; what’s not to like? We’re going to head out into the island for the day too and visit Timanfaya National Park to see the volcanic landscape.
Late May – Bergen, Norway
Technically June, as we arrive at Bergen airport just after midnight on the 1st for 3 days of exploring with my Mother in Law. She mentioned to me many years ago that she would love to visit the Fjords, but was resigned to the fact she never would because the friends she goes on holiday with wouldn’t be interested. Step in the husband with her 80th birthday present! Bergen looks very pretty, with coloured wooden houses surrounding the old harbour, and a funicular railway up to Mount Floyen from where you can view the whole city below.
We’ll take the Bergen railway, considered to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque train journeys in the world, connecting with the Flam railway which holds the same accolade. We’ll do a couple of fjord cruises (details yet to be finalised) and probably get very confused by the midnight sun! I have to say that Norway has never been on my agenda. But once I started investigating it looks absolutely beautiful so I’m really looking forward to this.
September – New York baby!
Well, this one came completely out of the blue. Not that we haven’t talked about it – New York is on everyone’s list, surely? It’s just never quite made it to the top, for me, because of the cost, and the vast amount of stuff to see in a short space of time. You see, I always thought of New York as being a city break. Maybe 3-4 nights, running around like a loon, feeling the pressure from jet lag and perhaps not quite doing it justice in one trip.
But then, an email from Jack’s Flight Club advertising return Virgin flights for under £300 (not a typo) and a quick Airbnb search offering up an apartment in Greenwich Village at a very reasonable cost started the rudiments of a plan. The husband has been before and always said he’d love to go back. He wanted a slightly longer trip instead of a just a quick break. So we settled on 6 nights/7 days and that was that! I sent him a text about the flight offer at around 10.30am. By 8pm that same day we were booked!
We’ll do all the tourist stuff, obvs. It’s been 20 years since the husband was there, so he’ll benefit from a refresher!! Those extra couple of days will allow us the time to just hang out, eat (I’m excited for a reuben sandwich at Katz’s deli, which is right in our neighbourhood), chill, and soak up the atmosphere. Preferable to just running round like headless chickens ticking off places we need to see.
Oh, and it’s my first ever foray into the world of Airbnb, which I think could be travel-changing!
So there you have it!
Our planned and booked travels for the year 2019. None of which I would have predicted if you’d asked me this time last year. But all of which I’m super chuffed with.
Hoping to sneak in a couple of UK visits too. Every year I talk about Cornwall. So, if we get another amazing summer like last year, that may be a long weekend contender.
And then it’s time to start thinking about 2020!
Have you finalised any travel plans for 2019 yet? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments.
If you’ve seen The Making of Me it needs no introduction. If you haven’t, here’s a precis. The 3 episodes follow 9 transgender individuals in their journey from man to woman, woman to man, or in one case woman to non-binary.
There’s no way I can think of to phrase this without it sounding condescending, so I’m just going to come right out with it and hope anyone reading doesn’t misconstrue what I’m saying. I find the whole concept of transgender fascinating. I find transgender people fascinating. And that’s not in a rude way, at all. I can’t emphasise that enough. I don’t look at people with gender issues as freaks, or weird, or anything negative at all. I just find it incredible that a person can be born into a gender and realise that it’s completely wrong.
Maybe that’s why transgender people get such a bad rap. The average person on the street can’t comprehend not being who they are. Most men have never thought about wearing a dress, much less hating their penis to the point of feeling like an alien in their own body. Most women can’t imagine wishing they didn’t have breasts to the point of wanting them surgically removed.
It’s an alien feeling to most people
That doesn’t make it an unreal feeling though.
I’m a great believer that if science says something is real, then it’s real. I’m an atheist who doesn’t believe in god. I trust that the moon landings happened, and I know that the Earth isn’t flat (if you think that, then stop reading now).
So the fact that science says people can be born in the wrong body, is fact for me.
What harm is it doing anyone else?
Back to the TV program. It’s wonderfully done. Sensitively filmed. There are no gratuitous surgery or genital shots. The focus is very much on real people with real feelings. How they feel at the beginning of the process, and how they feel at the end.
Cairo – female to male transgender; previously a very attractive female model – proof that “being pretty” doesn’t make you a woman.
Andrew – female to male transgender who couldn’t wait to get a mastectomy to remove his breasts.
Karen – male to female transgender who felt so strongly about being born in the wrong body that they were willing to put their professional career on the line.
And that, for me, is the crux of all this. Being transgender isn’t easy. It’s probably the most difficult thing any of these individuals have ever done. They risk being ostracised by their family, friends and work colleagues. And yet it’s still worth it. If that doesn’t tell you that trans is real, then I don’t know what will.
Imagine everything you hold dear in life
Your career. Your partner. Your children. Then imagine telling them something that might make them turn against you. Would you risk it? Could you risk it?
In episode 2, Pete comes out to his wife as trans. She’s filmed as saying that “transitioning is very selfish”. Is it though? Isn’t it more selfish to insist that someone live a lie to satisfy the image you have of your life and future?
I don’t know. You could argue that they should never have entered into a marriage if they weren’t the person they purported to be. But, for people transitioning later in life, today’s more open, more accepting society is their chance to be who they are. And don’t we all deserve that?
For anyone who doesn’t believe in, or doesn’t agree with, people transitioning into the gender they should have been born in, I leave you with this. Jackie, previously Simon, who signs off episode one with “I can just be me all the time. I can be happy.”
And the smile of every one of the 9 brave people who took part in this filming. Compare their before and after smiles. Compare their stance and their eyes. Look at how they hold themselves.
It turns out that, for the 13 years I talked about going to Santorini, what I actually wanted was to go to Oia (pronounced Ee-a).
Of course I didn’t realise that when our plane landed on the runway at Thira airport after a busy few days in Athens. I was still full of the notion that we’d get a bus to the capital Fira. Maybe visit the ancient ruins at Akrotiri. See something of the island.
Nor did I realise it during the first afternoon we headed into the village to explore. In fact, based on how busy Oia was with cruise ship tourists and day visitors, the idea of getting out of the village seemed even more appealing. We retreated to our hotel, with it’s secluded pool and traditional restaurant, and indulged in some much needed R&R following a full itinerary on the mainland.
Thanks to checking out the cruise ship schedule (all hail Tripadvisor reviews for that piece of knowledge) we knew that on day 2 there would be fewer visitors to the island, so we headed out once again and that’s when we both knew we wouldn’t be leaving this beautiful cliff top vision until it was time to go home.
Oia is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to
Ever. It’s almost beyond belief. When you’re not dodging selfie sticks and crowds and arrogant wannabe models, it’s absolutely breathtaking. There’s no white sandy beach, no uninterrupted view of the horizon and no sound of the waves breaking on the coastline. Oia is built high up on a cliff, and looks out to the caldera which is dotted with islands created when the volcano erupted in 1646 BC.
The curved white Cycladic architecture is both retro and futuristic, all at once. The black lava rocks contrast dramatically with the blue sea and sky and the pink bougainvillea. The elevated position on the cliff face means you can actually see the currents in the sea below, while the sun glistens on the water like thousands of diamonds.
We ate breakfast overlooking buildings seemingly tumbling down the cliff face. Over the course of the week I never tired of the views once. I took multiple pictures of the same spots every day, because I couldn’t get enough of them. The whole village was a sight to behold.
See for yourself!
The best thing to do, surely, must be to share some photos with you? I can’t say this emphatically enough – NONE of these pictures have been changed in any way. No filters, no photoshop, just pure point and click on my camera phone.
See what I mean? Looking at these photos now just brings it all back!
At dusk twinkling lights start to appear as buildings are illuminated.
And even in the black of night the same view was illuminated by hundreds of lights giving the white architecture an ethereal glow and the plunge pools and hot tubs a bright blue hue.
I don’t think anyone could fail to be wowed by Oia. From an aesthetic point of view it’s incredible, but also from a logistical point of view – the way everything is built almost beggars belief!
Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Also yes.
If I’d only been visiting Oia rather than staying there I would have been very sorely disappointed.
Have you ever been to Oia, or Santorini? Let me know in the comments!
I haven’t posted about assisted dying for a while.
OK, so I haven’t posted much of anything for a while, but let’s gloss over that!
Like many supporters of
, and believers in a change in the law to allow terminally ill people autonomy over their death, I was gutted when Noel Conway’s latest legal battle was unsuccessful in November.
Noel has been an unending powerhouse in fighting for a change in the law. Suffering with Motor Neurone disease, and wanting the assurance that he can end his own life when the disease becomes too much for him to bear, he has been through court cases and appeals, all with the support of Dignity in Dying. In November the Supreme Court – the highest in the UK – ruled that he could not appeal against an earlier ruling that he could end his life by assisted suicide at such time he deemed fit.
This leaves Noel in the situation of either waiting for his disease to kill him; a slow, dignity stripping and painful end, or seeking an assisted death elsewhere. The current choice of destination for Brits wanting to end their own life on their own terms is Dignitas in Switzerland.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that my Dad wanted the option to travel to there rather than be ravaged by a late stage diagnosis of prostate cancer. What he actually wanted, underneath all of that, was what many terminally ill people want – the choice to end their life on their own terms, in their own home with their family around them, With that not being an option, Dignitas was the next best thing for him. Unfortunately his GP blocked the necessary paperwork he needed, on legal and ethical grounds, leaving Dad to face the very end that scared him most.
Fast forward then to this week, and the heartbreaking case of Geoff Whaley and his family. Geoff too had motor neurone disease, like Noel Conway. Geoff feared the disease taking away any sense of living in his final months. Being alive is so different to living, and that wasn’t what Geoff wanted. So he made plans to travel to Dignitas and have control over his death.
I did not fear death, but I did fear the journey. When I eventually got the ‘green light’ from Dignitas, a weight lifted; I was able to get on with living without the constant mental anguish over my death.
This is the key for so many people who want the choice of assisted death. Fear hangs over them and overtakes every day – days when they could be making the most of the time they have left. My Dad was a living example of this; he was consumed by wondering how ill he would get. Would the cancer take his mobility? Would he end up bedbound? Unable to go to the bathroom? Would his death be everything he didn’t want it to be?
Horribly, for Geoff and his family, someone made an anonymous phonecall to the authorities to alert them to his plan. Imagine involving the law in a dying man’s wishes? Imagine the selfishness and self-centredness that would lead you to try and turn a dying man and his family into criminals?
Because that’s one of the major issues here. Anyone who assists a person to make their way to Dignitas and end their life can face a criminal investigation and up to 14 years in prison. Geoff’s wife had made the arrangements for him because his disease had already stripped him of the use of his hands to make the calls and send the emails himself.
Thankfully, although a small mercy, the police decided not to proceed with any criminal charges. That doesn’t excuse the fact that Geoff’s final weeks were blighted by the threat of investigation and criminal charges against his family.
Geoff travelled to Switzerland with his wife, children and close friends. He ended his life independently by drinking a cup of water laced with barbiturates.
Tellingly, his wife Ann said:
I wish the law let me have him for longer.
Geoff, like so many others, had to end his life earlier than he may have wanted to because of logistics. He had to be well enough to travel to Switzerland. Had the UK law been different, Geoff would not have had to expedite his death for fear of missing the opportunity.
In a last show of strength, Geoff wrote an open letter to MPs. In it, he implores them to consider the real effects of the law on real people and real families.
No family should ever have to endure the torment we have undergone in recent weeks.
The reason that people like Geoff and Noel fight the fight is not for themselves. It’s for the future of other people who might find themselves in such a position. And their fight isn’t without results.
Change of heart
Although every assisted dying bill has so far been overruled in the House of Commons – the most recent being the bill brought forward by Lord Falconer in 2015, the tide is turning. Some MPs are becoming vocal in their support for a change in the law. Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, who I listened to in Parliament last January as he spoke of the potential for an assisted dying law to be exploited, and therefore his inability to support it, has now come out with a very different view.
He concedes that, with safeguards in place, assisted dying could be a viable legal option for terminally ill people. He has publicly gone on record as saying he is now in support of looking at the law surrounding the controversial topic.
There’s still much to be done. Change won’t come overnight, and nor should it. But the fact that high profile cases such as Geoff’s are making politician’s think more about the situation and how they themselves might want to proceed with the same circumstances can only be a good thing.