Unhappy landing….

For avid readers of this blog, you will know that I’m not a great lover of air travel. I can just about tolerate it, but I’m not a fan in all honesty. 

Which leads me onto today’s tale. I was coming back from a honeymoon in Malta. I had just recently got married and me and the wife (or the better half, or in this case the better three quarters) had spent a week in the sun kissed Mediterranean island.

The journey back from Malta was relatively trouble free, until we reached the outskirts of the UK. It was windy and the plane was being thrown a little off it’s steady course coming into Gatwick. I don’t like the landing part of a plane’s journey and as we came in to touch down, I sat bolt upright in the seat. 

Just before the wheels touched the ground, the pilot bailed out and lifted the plane back into the air. Now I hadn’t been confronted with this before. I was scared and I also realised that adrenaline was brown….

I shouted “What the hell’s going on?”, “Why are we going round again?” and generally panicking. Nobody else was, including the wife, who I managed to bawl at at the same time, for which I received a ticking off in her own inimitable and frightening way.

The plane circled the airport for what seemed an eternity. Then the pilot made another attempt to land. This time, he was successful, though the plane landed with a large thud and lurched to the right. I was relieved we were on terra firma at last.

As the plane was taxiing back to the gate, the pilot announced what the problem was. “Sorry about that ladies and gentlemen, it was rather windy the first time and we couldn’t land. We had to adopt the go around procedure”. A bit more reassurance and then the pay off line, delivered with that clipped Home Counties accent that most pilots seem to have….”but we don’t charge you for going round the airfield again”.

Er….thanks for frightening the bejesus out of me and to say we don’t charge you for the privilege of the go around was rubbing salt into my panic induced wound. Off we got, and I was shaking like a jelly on a plate. Wobble, wobble, wobble.

Walking back through the terminal building, I was somewhat shell shocked by the whole experience. The wife found it all utterly hilarious of course, the laughter would have been on the other side of her face if I decided to end the marriage then! If I had done, I would have saved myself a lot of hassle, but that’s another story…..

It took me a few days back on solid ground to wipe the experience from my mind. Now that I know that pilots can perform this go around procedure, if it happens again, I can be assured that there is nothing to worry about. Flying and public speaking can be two of the most stressful things anyone can do, and yet I do these things, after a fashion it must be said. The mind is a complex thing. 

Allen Brooks xx


Sky News….

In London, until this afternoon, it was a glorious autumn day with warm, mellow sunshine and light breezes.

The remnants of storm Ophelia are making their presence felt here too. The sun went a rather peculiar orangey colour, rather than yellow, the clouds scudded across, the winds blew a lot stronger and then the sky seemed to fall in around 4 pm this afternoon.

This of course sent people into their usual witticisms, saying the apocalypse is coming and that Donald J. Trump has launched an attack on whatever country has offended him. It went very, very dark, and no one knew why.

But the good old Met Office here in the U.K. has variously attributed the strange sky colour to Saharan dust and forest fire debris being blown in from Spain and Portugal. The winds are from a southerly track and of sufficient strength to frighten people into thinking the end of days was imminent. There’s always a reason behind most things, and we can all go back to normal now.

Allen Brooks xx

30th Anniversary of the Great UK storm…

It was thirty years ago to the day when British TV weather forecaster, Michael Fish, delivered a gaffe that will always be remembered by the watching public. Fish told us that a hurricane wasn’t  on the way that night and following morning….what followed was the biggest wind storm to hit England for 350 years…no big mistake then!

I remember the night very clearly. I was due to go into school the following morning, and the winds howled and the rain poured down. So much so in fact, that’s part of London suffered a major power outage. After the storm had passed, it was eerily quiet and ghost like in the area.

A school mate had popped round to see whether I was going to school. There was no possibility of school that day, mainly for health and safety reasons. There were some huge trees uprooted in the local area and it was a scene of eerie calm, despite the havoc that just been wreaked.

Nationwide, several people were either injured or lost their lives. The national Met Office came in for some fearful stick in not alerting people to the devastation to come. Computer technology has improved somewhat in 30 years, but as we have seen this autumn, Mother Nature has been merciless in destroying communities and places in the Caribbean and North America. No amount of computer predictions can beat Mother Nature.

And, by a quirk of fate, a storm in the Eastern Atlantic is making it’s way to the western UK and Ireland tomorrow and into Tuesday. It’s called Ophelia and we await events. Some damage is likely, so please take care of yourselves in these areas. The weather is always a topic of conversation, but something we can’t control. Tomorrow will bring back some memories of 1987 and a gaffe prone weather forecaster. I don’t think the same mistake will be made tomorrow.

Allen Brooks xx

Sunday Best…

Hello. On what was a glorious day for mid October, me and one of my umpiring colleagues made the long journey to Cambridge for some information and guidance on how to run some new cricket umpiring courses, starting in the New Year.

It’s a time for great change within the tutoring and learning methodology in cricket umpiring. There’s to be less emphasis on examinations, and more on the practical side of things, such as dealing with players, making mistakes and preparation before an umpire does a game, for example.

Also, there’s some new law changes as well, especially related to player behaviour, which comes as a necessary evil into what used to be euphemistically termed “a gentleman’s game” many years ago. We live in a society now that is more aggressive and querulous, and it is up to the umpires to uphold the traditions of the game, I hope.

It was a long drive there and back, and the four early morning starts in a row sees me in bed by 10.30 in the evening, and also guaranteeing me some good quality sleep, something which hasn’t always been the case of late. Still, it’s better than sleeping in till nearly lunchtime, and sometimes gone lunchtime! But when the medication was such, heavy and poor quality sleep was the result.

I feel ok, not bad, could be better, could be worse. I’ll settle for that.

Allen Brooks xx

Watching and Learning….

Tonight I have spent a very productive few hours in the company of the mental health charity I am currently training with, and hopefully to volunteer for.

It was an opportunity to shadow a current volunteer on the charity’s helpline. There are several charities in the U.K. that run helplines for people with mental illnesses, and it was certainly an eye opening experience, to say the very least.

The volunteer took six calls, and the variation in the nature of the calls indicates what a distressing existence it can be to have a mental illness, or even to contemplate something life ending. For obvious reasons, I will not elaborate on the callers or the nature of their calls. 

Helplines are a lifeline, quite literally. It’s like throwing somebody an aid to save them from drowning. I am used to dealing with real issues at the weekly Peer Support group, but tonight was here and now, mental distress in the raw.

I honestly don’t know how the volunteers on the helpline keep their distance, their boundaries or their patience. The guy I was shadowing was magnificent. Professional, polite and patient. He was a real credit to the organisation and we got on well. He also valued my comments about the individual calls too, which was nice. 

I must say, the helpline volunteering is not for me. If I didn’t have my own issues, then dealing with distress wouldn’t be a problem, but with all that has happened the last seven years, dealing with extreme stuff probably is a bit beyond my capabilities. The Peer Support group is different, because anyone in crisis in the group is referred straightaway to clinical services, and wouldn’t be allowed in the group. There is an informal vetting procedure, something that doesn’t happen with helplines.

I am up for moderating an online forum and doing some admin work with the new charity. Just going to keep my head down and make my contribution, in my own way.

An enlightening evening, and I have great admiration for anyone working on helplines. Mental illness is something to be taken very seriously, and these helplines perform a crucial outlet for those in need. Long may they continue.

Allen Brooks xx

In England’s Green and Pleasant Land

Hi. Not at my best today, so I thought I would get out of London for a few hours to try and rid myself of yet another episode of brain fog. By and large, the trip has succeeded.

It’s always good to explore new places and get a feel for the English countryside. Today, as you can see from the photos, I visited Sudbury in Suffolk. A pretty little town, with nice houses, good architecture and plenty of green space. The only slight let down is sticking the railway station at the end of a road with an unremarkable car park and some recycling banks. Not the most salubrious, but I always have to find the negative, don’t I?

This is the area of the great English painters, John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. Also I managed to find a tribute to the author of the book 101 Dalmatians, Dodie Smith. Smith’s book made it’s way onto a world famous Disney film. If you look hard enough in these towns, there’s history and interest galore.

And that’s the problem with England, there should be more advertising of the greatness this country has produced and will continue to produce. It’s only 75 minutes by train from London, Sudbury, and I quite like it. Quintessentially English.

Sadly now, back to London. Gloom returns!

Allen Brooks xx

Times they are a changing…

Hi. There are a few events this month to do with mental health that my company are running. However, after that, times they are a changing, as Bob Dylan once intoned.

When I joined the company back in 2014, it was the second year of a five year project to involve local businesses, schools and colleges in dealing with spreading the gospel of mental health. This has been, by and large, a huge success, especially the schools presentations. They have been a complete and utter joy to be involved with. If we got one pupil to disclose a problem with us, we felt we were getting our message across. 

All very laudable and well intentioned, and hugely enjoyable as I say. But the five years is up. And the future is uncertain. The presentations will be lessened in number, with the future emphasis on including younger people to take up the mantle of improving the lives of others, with our input at first.

Like with everything else, this is reliant on money. I can’t comment at this stage on whether the above task will be undertaken. All I can say is that what I was doing is being drastically reduced, for example, opportunities to get out there in schools and local businesses will no longer be a core principle of our work, and that is very sad. 

But like with other things, it is time to move on. I’m trying to find other opportunities in volunteering locally, whether in mental health or otherwise. It is a long winter season coming up, and I need to keep busy. I’m busying myself in keeping my ear to the ground, seeing if anyone will be interested.

I do have skills to offer, like Peer Support (which I’m glad to say is still continuing), admin and presentations amongst other things. The final goal would be to get a paid job and to finally come off benefits. But that is a long way off, and won’t be done overnight. I still have relapses and I have a disability, namely Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Plenty of ground work needs to be done before I can consider myself work ready, and age isn’t on my side either. But we’ll see what the future holds. 

Allen Brooks xx