Tuesday, 28 May 2013


       Free at last! Whether you’re at college, university, working in the city or enjoying a gap year, you’ve finally cut the apron strings. No more curfews, no more lectures, no having to tidy your bedroom or ‘eat sensibly’. Now you’ve left home you can do pretty much what you want, make your own choices and be answerable to no one.
       And, best of all, thanks to modern technology, you can continue to exert your influence over the family, making your ‘presence’ well and truly felt wherever you happen to be.
       By following the instructions of my previous blog, you’ll no doubt have perfected the art of annoying your significant adults while still living at home. But now you’re virtually independent, you really need to raise your game. Here are some excellent suggestions:
1.       Remember when you refused to tell your parents where you’d been the night before? Well, forget that. Now you need to tell them exactly where you’ve been, along with everyone you’ve met and what you did there, safe in the knowledge they can do absolutely nothing about it.  One week after my own offspring had sprung to London, she told me about a friendship she’d struck up with a sweet ‘hippy-type’ person she’d encountered in an otherwise deserted subway. At night. “Ahhh, he even offered to share his sleeping bag with me.” 
 2.      If you get lost in the small hours in a particularly dodgy part of town, ring home and ask Mum or Dad to Google directions for you. (Naturally, you can’t use your Smart phone in case you ‘get mugged’) Then – and this is VERY IMPORTANT – turn off your phone and remain incommunicado for the next two days at least, guaranteeing another sleepless night and huge phone bills for the folks back home as they frantically ring police, hospitals and everyone they know.
 3.      Travelling abroad? Nothing stresses parents more than an overseas adventure, which throws up plenty of wind-up opportunities before you even get there. This starts at the planning stage.
 4.      Whether aiming for the North Face of the Eiger or your local MacDonald’s, don't waste Gigahertz and valuable chilling time with tedious googling when Mum’s sitting at home with nothing to do. (Dad’s are pretty much out of it by this stage, being for the most part mere conduits who pass everything on to the ‘staff’. “I’ll get your mother to do it” is the usual stock reply.) From now on, all the research/planning/pricing/booking is down to Mum. Don’t accept any negligence and, once she’s arranged everything, be quick to point out her mistakes: “No Mum! Not Shanghai – ShangDONG!”
 5.      The night before you set off ask Mum to phone you at 4am so you won’t oversleep and miss your plane/coach/bus/ship. On no account must you answer it, leaving Mum to wonder whether you got up in time. A short text to say you DID oversleep is permissible on route, but hardly necessary as, once at the airport, you can call to tell Mum that the plane’s been delayed - possibly due to a bomb threat. “There’s LOADS of policemen here!”
6.       Make sure you’ve forgotten something very, very important, like your favourite flip-flops, for example – the ONLY ones you can wear without getting foot-rot – which will then have to be located and posted at great trouble and expense.
7.       Having reached your destination, make sure you switch off your phone completely, resisting any urge to text or email. Forget the saying “No news is good news”. Mums’ minds just don’t work that way. In fact the longer she goes without hearing from you, the darker her imaginings become. The son of one couple I know set off on a solitary round-the-world voyage in his tidgy, second-hand yacht and nobody heard from him for TWO YEARS! A truly awesome wind-up!
8.       Naturally, you’ll be taking lots of photographs and it’s permissible to send the odd pic to your folks, preferably in a suitably exotic environment: Teetering on the brink of a live volcano, for instance; bungee-jumping from the Eiffel Tower; shooting rapids down the Amazon; hacking through a jungle; sun-bathing in the middle of a desert (without your hat on), or frolicking on a beach near a nuclear reactor. Make sure wherever possible to feature local colour in the background, such as tigers, crocodiles, and indiginous militia in full battle mode. (In my daughter’s case it was a Komodo dragon, but let’s not go there!)
9.       The return journey will doubtless be another mad panic, as chances are you’ll oversleep again or get your time zones mixed up. Now you can ring home to say you’re travelling in a rusty old taxi at 90mph with a 1000ft drop on one side and a hail of rocks from that rumbling volcano on the other! “But don’t worry Mum, the driver passed his test yesterday!”
10.       When you finally get home, make sure you use the wrong exit at the airport, forcing Dad (who’s had it pretty easy so far) to drive aimlessly for miles in search of a non-existent parking bay wherever it is you happen to be. Of course you’ll need your Smart phone in which to bark increasingly vague directions: “I’m at the EXIT! Next to a bush! I don’t know what kind of bush - a GREEN one!”
A few choice phrases:
       “Guess what? I’ve met a lovely Sheik who’s flying me to Beirut!”
       “I’m walking through a massive field of beautiful pink poppies”
       “How do you say ‘Clinic’ in Thai?’
       “I’m somewhere near the North Korean border. Which way do I go?”
       “Hang on, I’ve forgotten my crampons!”
       “The outboard motor’s packed up and I’ve sprung a leak!”
       “Tell me again – WHICH snakes are poisonous?”
       “Of course it’s safe! There’s razor wire everywhere!”
       “What’s the difference between a shark’s fin and a dolphin’s?”
       “Everyone round here’s carrying an Uzi”
       “I’ve discovered the path to eternal serenity”
       “Must go – we’ve got pirates aboard!”
       “What’s my passport number?”
       “Hey, a cool French guy’s invited me to join the Legion!”
       “Can you contact the Embassy for me?”
       “Sounds like gunfire outside - hang on, Mum, I'll go and take a look”
       "Can't find my inhaler"
       "My tongue's turned blue!"
       "Ahhhh.....there's lots of cute lions just 10 yards away!"




Friday, 3 May 2013

In the Blink of an Eye - How one man conquered Locked-In Syndrome

UPDATE 16th July 2013

'Pride of Australia' Awartd nominee and recovering stroke victim Pete Coghlan is now campaigning for ALL sufferers of Locked-In Syndrome to get physiotherapy.

Book now available in paperback or for Kindle!  (Links below)

See video promo:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISJxpYSCuvg

       "It's hard to explain what it's like being in a coma. A coma is a weird place, like a dream but all messed up. I remember being sat in a chair in a big open room with a needle stuck in my arm and being starved of oxygen, feeling very weak and hearing my heart beating very loudly. People were walking past and ignoring me; I felt like I was slipping away and I was so afraid."
        Fear did not come naturally to Peter Coghlan, brown belt karate, jiu-jitsu and kickboxing enthusiast. At just 33 years old, this former soldier had already faced dangers few of us could imagine; mob violence in Northern Ireland, two attempted bombings and a serious battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
        Yet, having just moved to Perth, Australia with Jade, the love of his life, there was no time to dwell on the past as Peter enjoyed a pre-dinner drink on the patio with friends and family. The future on that hot, sunny evening seemed as bright as the weather until, suddenly, he felt tired and decided to lie down for a nap.
        "About four hours later, I awoke feeling confused and agitated. I walked out to my patio where my friends and family were sitting around my bar. I remember feeling very strange and said, 'I feel like I have had a stroke.' The others noticed I was slurring my words and they asked me to walk in a straight line up and down the patio. Shortly after this I apparently began vomiting in the garden, but I don’t remember this, nor do I remember taking a shower to make me feel better."
The journey to hospital was just a blur. The next thing Peter knew was being totally helpless, unable to move and very, very scared. After suffering a massive brain stem stroke, Peter was now imprisoned by his own body; totally paralysed by Locked-in Syndrome (LIS).
        Sometimes known as "disease of the walled living" this neurological condition is difficult to diagnose as, owing to their lack of response to stimuli, patients are often assumed to be comatose or in a vegetative state. Main causes are stroke of the basilar artery, brain haemorrhage or injury, damage to the pons area of the brain, and diseases that destroy the myelin sheath which protects nerve cells. Effects are devastating. Unable to move, sufferers retain their cognitive and intellectual powers but can only communicate through vertical eye movements - the only voluntary muscles still functioning. Even this ability may go undetected for some time, usually being spotted by regular carers or close family and friends.
        LIS is mercifully rare. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment to date, the only help available being assistive technology to improve communication. Despite this - just six months and one day after his stroke - Peter Coghlan left Royal Perth Hospital in Shenton Park, Perth and walked back into the sunshine. (See You Tube Link below).
        Peter is now well on his way to a full recovery, has been actively involved with charity events and has just tied the knot with Jade! And now, he's written a book based on his experiences which he hopes will encourage other sufferers of LIS.

Peter & Jade Coghlan

You can find out more about Pete and his progress via his website petercoghlan.com


http://www.amazon.com/In-Blink-Eye-ebook/dp/B00COL4JMS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1368002652&sr=1-1&keywords=in+the+blink+of+an+eye+peter+coghlan (US)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/In-Blink-Eye-ebook/dp/B00COL4JMS/ref=sr_1_1?_encoding=UTF8&ie=UTF8&keywords=in%20the%20blink%20of%20an%20eye%20Peter%20coghlan&qid=1368001751&sr=8-1#_swftext_Swf (UK)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=in%20the%20blink%20of%20an%20eye%20peter%20coghlan (Australia)

For paperback version:

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Stay Safe! How to deter a predator

         My brother had a bee in his balaclava helmet.
       “It’s a hostile world out there,” he said, “I’d better teach you to protect yourself.”  Having recently joined a martial arts school, he was keen to try out his newly acquired skills.Me, I wasn’t too sure. Going by past experience the only person I ever needed protection from was HIM! But, hey, if he wanted to do the big brother thing then who was I to stop him. Next news, a size 10 trainer came flying in my direction, stopping a mere centimetre from my nose.
        “That was just a warm up,” he explained with a smidgeon of self-congratulation. Oh joy!  “Now, let’s suppose someone were to sneak up on you from behind and grab you by the throat – like this!”
       Too late to object. Before I could say “Stop it!” his forearm was already locked in place, squeezing the air from my trachea. “Gerrout of that!” he cried. For the next two minutes, I struggled to get free, wriggling, scratching, pinching his arm, and gasping for breath as my lungs began to shrivel and my heart was pounding, 19 to the dozen.
       Fortunately, I was wearing my new shoes at the time, my first ever pair with proper, grown-up heels. Not very high, but sharp enough to be banned from our sitting room’s parquet flooring. Sharp enough, indeed, to make my 6’3” brother yelp with anguish as I kicked him firmly in the shin.
       “What’s going on!” cried my harassed mother, rushing in from the kitchen, potato peeler in hand.  
       “She kicked me!” yelled my brother, trying hard not to cry and hopping around like a pink flamingo on speed!  “I think she’s broken my shin bone!”
       “Jacy, you bully!” said Mum. “Leave your brother alone!”
       There is a serious side to this anecdote. Since my adolescence, serious assaults against males and females of all ages have proliferated alarmingly. Some people, women especially, are now afraid to go out alone, even in broad daylight. City centres can be a nightmare, particularly at night. Nowhere is safe. So what do we do? How can we protect ourselves? Is becoming a karate black-belt the only answer? Would that even help?
       Of course, none of us can guarantee our safety no matter where we go, but you’re not entirely helpless. Here are a few weapons which may protect you from attack.
Forward planning
       Whenever you go out for the evening – to a party,  club or even a cinema – make sure you get home safely by planning transport in advance – either by arranging a lift with a trusted friend or family member, or by travelling with a group. Teenagers please note - most parents will gladly pick you up to keep you out of danger!
       Predators are rarely looking for a fight. What they search for is a perfect victim, someone who looks vulnerable, uncertain and lacking self-worth. Stride purposefully, with shoulders squared and head held high.  Act as though you know where you’re going (even if you don’t) and adopt a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude.
       If he gives you the creeps, he’s probably a creep! Don’t be persuaded to stick around or be manoeuvred into a solitary place. Just leave. You don’t need excuses. Put plenty of distance between you and make sure other people are around to help.
       Should anyone make to assault you, Scream. At the top of your voice! It really is one of your best defences. A piercing, glass shattering scream may alert others and will often deter an attacker.
       Being determined to fight back surprises and disturbs the would-be assailant. 
       If possible, and as soon as you see your chance, Run. Take off your shoes if necessary and run to safety – the nearest house or any place where there are people. 

       Sorry but the way you dress DOES matter. No one has the right to assault you however you dress BUT if you can see up it, down it or through it, you could inadvertently be attracting the wrong sort of attention. Okay, you may want to wear that skimpy outfit for the party/club/restaurant, but please cover up when walking home!
       Whether you fear an attack or have recently suffered one, tell the police.  By reporting an incident and providing as much information as you can, you may help to prevent others being assaulted in the future.