Homeless charities and mothers criticise government for not raising duty on super strength cider in the Budget

frostyjack's

The CEOs of homelessness charities Shekinah and Thames Reach have strongly criticized the government for not raising duty on super strength white cider which they said is killing more homeless people than heroin and crack.

The CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain said “the evidence showing that the drinks are killing people is beyond dispute and each month that goes past leads to further deaths.” John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “we see daily examples of people just killing themselves from consuming very large quantities of ridiculously cheap super strength cider”. Both said they were “very disappointed” by the decision.

The decision has also been condemned by Joanne Good, the mother of 16 year old  Megan Craig Wilkinson who died after drinking 1.5 litres of super strength cider Frosty Jack. Joanne Good has lobbied MPs to ban or raise duty on what she called “pocket money” cider.  Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said super strength white cider is almost exclusively drunk by children, street drinkers and the homeless because of its sweet taste and low price.

It is possible to buy a 3 litre bottle of super strength cider which contains as much alcohol as 22 shots of vodka for less than £3.50 or $4. Cider which can be up to 9% alcohol has the lowest duty of any alcohol product in the UK at only 5p per unit less than a third of the rate for beers at the same strength. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce wrote in the Huffington Post that the Chancellor needed “to call time on the ability to buy a can of cider for cheaper than a bottle of water.”

Joanne Good told The Mirror: “I felt disappointed that there’s no immediate rise on the cheap cider that is causing so many problems in society. Hopefully this would put children off from drinking it and maybe a life could be saved. If it was up to me, I would like to see ciders like these removed from sale.”

Both Joanne Good, Thames Reach and the Alcohol Health Alliance welcomed the fact that the government would be consulting on introducing a higher rate of duty on cider of 5.5 to 7.5% volume. But John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “they have been consulting for years there’s been lots of evidence presented to government about the harms of super strength cider but there just seems to be a reluctance in government to tax people’s leisure. But you and I don’t go round to meals at friend’s houses on Saturday night when someone brings out a bottle of White lightening. But there’s somehow a perception that higher taxes on super strength cider and lager will impact on Joe Public that’s not the case.” Conservative MP Fiona Bruce agreed saying “80% of cider sales would be completely unaffected by such a move.”

Cider has had an artificially low rate of duty since the Second World War to encourage people to plant apple trees. But John Hamblin said “We are not targeting people drinking craft ciders which are made from apples this super strength cider should not even be called cider. It’s an insult to call it cider as its never seen an apple in its life it’s just a concoction of chemicals.”

When Joanne Good’s MP Labour’s Mary Glindon brought up the issue of super strength cider at Prime Minister’s question time Theresa May said the government had already dealt with it. “We have taken action through the duty system so these high-strength ciders and beers are taxed more than equivalent lower strength products.We have also, of course, taken action on the very cheap alcohol by banning sales below duty plus VAT.”

But Alcohol Research UK director of research Dr James Nicholls said “The price per unit for strong ciders is considerably lower than beer at the same strength. There is a lot of evidence it is drink by people with serious alcohol problems.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: the government needed to “move the tax system towards a more sensible scheme where the stronger alcohol is, the more highly it is taxed. By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government will also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks.”

 John Hamblin of Shekinah said “people won’t stop drinking because you put the price up we are working with very vulnerable complex people when you increase the price they come off the super strength lager and cider and switch to lower strength say 4%. We not only see a rapid increase in their health but it makes it far easier for us to engage with people.”

The managing director of Aston Manor, the firm that makes Frosty Jack’s, was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very unhappy with the government’s consultation on the issue.

“We are very surprised that in the detail of the Budget Statement there is mention of a plan to consult on a new duty rate ‘to target white cider’,” Gordon Johncox told the Mirror.

“We often point to the inaccurate mythology that exists around white cider and we are disappointed that without evidence this announcement has been made. We will participate fully in the consultation process and provide evidence that dispels the myths that exist”

But MP Fiona Bruce said “opinion polling for the Alcohol Health Alliance indicates 66% of the public support higher taxes on white cider. Perhaps most importantly, Public Health England’s recent report clearly states that tackling affordability would be the best way to reduce alcohol harm. Market leader Frosty Jack’s is consistently ranked among the top brands consumed by underage dependent drinkers. .A quarter of patients in alcohol treatment services drink white ciders, and of these nearly half drink them exclusively.”

She added “such measures have worked in the past: consumption of super-strength beer fell by a quarter in response to the creation of a higher rate duty band in 2011.”

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Almost 400% rise in alcohol related brain damage in older UK adults in 10 years

nemesisnobrandingThe number of over-50s admitted to hospital for brain damage caused by the amount of alcohol they drink has more than trebled in little over a decade. There were 3,627 admissions of over-50s with alcohol-related brain damage in 2015, compared with 994 in 2002, but experts said that the condition could be twice as prevalent because it was poorly diagnosed. Read my article in the Times newspaper.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5

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Where is the £10 billion extra going that the UK government says it’s spending on mental health?

The Prime Minister's Theresa May's speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health

Not on mental health according to leading charities Sane and Mind. They say this money is partly being spent by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to plug gaps in their funding for  physical health problems. They say less money is actually feeding through to front line mental health services, dealing with people in crisis and suicidal than before. The Chief Executive of SANE Majorie Wallace says the number of people calling their helplines is higher than at any point during the helplines 20 year history as people cannot access crisis care

The government is keen to stress it’s spending more on mental health. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says its spending £10 billion more and 1 billion more than 2 years ago. The £11.7 billion budget for mental health in 2016/17 is double what it was 5 years ago.  But the government has refused to ring fence the money it allocates to mental health which means charities say the money is being diverted.  Two thirds of mental health trusts said recently that their budgets have been cut and 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups who responded to an Freedom of Information request in 2016 said they planned to reduce the proportion they spent on mental health.

Extra investment has been promised.  “The NHS has committed to investing an additional £1bn in mental health services by the end of 2020-21.” said the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer. “This is welcome but we need to make sure that it materialises and reaches the front line. The same goes for all the other pots of money announced over the last couple of years,” he said.

Although the government has put money into  non urgent services such as the talking therapy provider IAPT, SANE says that crisis care had been cut. Its Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace SANE said that 4000 adult psychiatric beds and 1500 Child and Adolescent psychiatric beds had closed in the past few years. The Chief Executive of Mind agreed that crisis care had been cut saying  “NHS mental health services have been subjected to significant cuts over recent years, more so than the acute sector, at a time of rising demand. This has left some parts of the system struggling to cope, which of course has a huge impact on patient care.”

Suicide rates of people being treated by Community mental health teams have doubled in recent years which SANE say is a sign that community care is massively overstretched and not working.

Labour say spending on mental health fell by 8% in real terms during the coalition government and a report in January 2015 said spending on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had decreased by 6%. The government says this has now been corrected and that has invested £7 million more in CAMHS psychiatric beds in 2015/2016.

Due to the shortage of inpatient CAMHS beds 47% of CAMHS patients are now treated in private hospitals often many miles from their home.  The average cost of a child staying in a private psychiatric hospital is 800 a night. Theresa May has pledged to end out of area placement for CAMHS patients by 2021. But SANE Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace cast doubt on whether this would happen as no significant new funding had been announced.

The Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health “first aid training” to spot signs of mental illness and that links between schools and local NHS mental health services would be strengthened. It also promised extra support for people with mental health problems in the workplace and £15 million extra for “crisis cafes” and clinics.  All this was welcomed by SANE and MIND but MIND said “our job is to ensure that the commitment is met. We need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come”

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10 Tips to avoid relapse when you encounter alcohol or drugs in work or social settings

I celebrated 11 years of recovery from alcohol and drugs at the beginning of 2016 and have never relapsed since I came into recovery at the beginning of 2005 by following these tips Following these suggestions I have been in countless situations involving alcohol and drugs and have never relapsed in my eleven and a half year recovery.

  1. Always have a couple of people’s phone numbers in recovery you can call if you feel triggered.
  2. In a social situation, if you think you are going to pick up, leave.
  3. In a work situation, if you feel you are going to pick up and cannot go home, leave the room for 5 minutes, make a phone call, pray, meditate or do some deep breathing exercises.
  4. Carry a list with you of the worst things you did when you were drinking and using so you remind yourself how bad it could get if you relapsed.
  5. If your job involves constant client entertainment, where you are under pressure to drink alcohol, switch to another role in the company where you don’t have to do this or find another job.
  6. If your job involves regular contact with your drug of choice, consider changing your job.
  7. Avoid social situations where you know you will see drugs, particularly your drug of choice. If someone brings out your drug of choice in a social situation, leave.
  8. Explain to your partner/close friends/family members how bad your drinking/using was and how terrible it would be for everyone if you relapsed. Encourage one person not to drink at social events with you or if they accompany you to work events. Then you have a non-drinking buddy to hang out with.
  9. If your partner/family members/friends are not there, there is often one other person who is not drinking because they are driving or on medication. Sit near them or hang out with them if it’s a social setting so you feel less isolated.
  10. I was advised in rehab not to drink non-alcoholic beer or wine or soft drinks out of wine glasses. Both can trigger a craving and you can end up picking up the wrong bottle or glass that actually has alcohol in it.Sign up for updates on this blogFollow me on Twitter            Send me a friend request on Facebook

 

10 Tips for dating a normal drinker if you’re a recovering addict/alcoholic

TIPSDATINGDRINKER

  1. Do not have alcohol in your home. I was warned early in rehab not to have booze in my house in case I had a bad day and reached for it. I think this is very good advice.
  2. Keep going to meetings or in touch with your online recovery community. You need to keep reminding yourself you are an alcoholic so you don’t think “my partner is drinking I will too.”
  3. Explain your behaviour when drinking to your new partner and that it would be a disaster for you and them if you went back there. This may encourage them to abstain from drinking when they are around you.
  4. If attending gatherings where everyone is drinking apart from you always have some people in recovery you can call if you get triggered. Tell your partner if you feel like picking up a drink.
  5. Exit as quickly as possible from the situation if you actually think you are going to pick up.
  6. Work on keeping a separate identity to your partner by maintaining your own interests, activities, hobbies including contact with all your recovery friends.
  7. If you start to think “I’m cured maybe I can drink again” read your Step 1 about the horrors of your addiction or any written work you have done in treatment or groups.
  8. Get more support in terms of seeing an addictions counsellor if you can afford it.
  9. Include other recovery people in your social activities or holidays with your partner, when possible, so you are not the only person not drinking and have support for your recovery.
  10. If you have a spiritual practise, some form of meditation or prayer, use it to ground yourself and ward off cravings. If not, check in with how you are feeling every day. If you are very angry upset or tired maybe avoid social situations where you will be exposed to alcohol.                                                                 Sign up for updates on this blog                     Follow me on Twitter            Send me a friend request on Facebook

 

I meet the Prime Minister David Cameron and ask him for a job as the Minister for Mental Health

As the head campaigner for Britain Stronger in Europe in Brent I go to a rally about the EU referendum with the Prime Minister David Cameron and the mayor of London Sadiq Khan

Day 87. Wild excitement as my turbo charged political activities to keep Britain a member of the European Union continue. Go to Britain Stronger in Europe event I have set up and the hottest volunteer of entire organisation is there. Of course this is not entirely coincidental as he was first person I called to come. Although he doesn’t look so good in daylight (he is white and without a tan) decide that he has lovely smile and invite him for tea after the event. There is another volunteer there but this is good cover as being in charge of my local area I cannot be too obvious in my romantic ambitions. Ask hottest volunteer if he wants to come on pub crawl to target young voters on Friday night. He says he wants to come and stays for tea much longer than expected. But as he is tall and very good looking and normal can he possibly be single?

Day 88. Efforts continue to achieve Lazarus like resurrection of journalism career. Read women’s magazines all day to try to pitch story about record numbers of women having 1st child over 40. After finish phone pitches and emails,  spend all evening working on blog which, very excitingly, a top publisher has agreed to read.

Day 89. Show my therapist my phone pitches for women’s magazines as she was the Art Director of Vogue and throws in all stylist related queries on accessories for free. Decide will include in pitch to Psychologies magazine that I was previously pretty crazy but avoid mentioning this in emails to other magazines.

Day 90. Sarah my friend from Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous comes to stay as she is temporarily homeless as she can’t stay at her parents’ house as they’re not getting on. Feel incredibly disturbed to have someone in the house overnight for the first time in 3 years. Because of nervous breakdown and 10 hour a day OCD have not been able to have anyone to stay.  But her staying is sign of OCD recovery. Remember how she rescued me after breakup with ex-armed robber by offering me her floor to sleep on so very happy to see her.

Day 91. Go to Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous in Notting Hill in search of hot blue eyed secretary. But decide that, instead of arriving late and being on my phone the whole meeting like the week before, I will put my best foot forward ignore phone and share something inspiring. You do have to appear to be grateful and recovered member of the fellowship if you want to pull someone well. He does have a lovely voice and looks just like dark version of ex-armed robber. But do get feeling at the end of the meeting that he doesn’t want to speak to me and may actively dislike me. Maybe my shameless quizzing of his economic potential by asking what he did the week before has put him off? Hopes of finding real man in real life are dwindling and think will have to go for a sperm donor.

Day 91.  Wonderful interview with lawyer for over 40 first time mothers story. She tells me that if you go to a Norwegian sperm bank you can not only get a photo of the donor but an entire “dating video.”  This is totally like my idea in my screenplay the Fish Tank Babies and resolve will phone Norwegian sperm bank soon. Only problem is Norwegians are blond and blue eyed and was looking for ethnic sperm donor.

Day 92.  As hottest volunteer is coming on Britain Stronger in Europe pub crawl with me decide will pay emergency visit to the hairdressers. Have wildly successful pub crawl through local area spreading message of benefits of Britain remaining in the EU, and obviously trying to pull every hot guy I see with my new chat up line “Have you thought about the European Referendum.”  Decide that hot volunteer is fantastically intelligent as well as very attractive and that he would be perfect sperm donor. The only thing is he doesn’t know this yet. And I can’t try to persuade him until after the referendum as the question “Can you leaflet Asda Brent Park on Saturday and then will you be my sperm donor” may strike him as odd.

Day 93. Go to another Britain Stronger in Europe event with Sarah where the former Labour party leader Ed Milliband is speaking. Manage to slip in some rubber necking to see if anyone I fancy is there and do spot a very attractive half Japanese Tory who unfortunately is only 18.  Hot volunteer from my local area is at the speech and I obviously ask him for coffee afterwards. Unfortunately so focused on capturing him as a sperm donor that miss the opportunity to speak to the former Labour leader.  Inquire about hot volunteer’s housing status and find out he is renting a room, ie has even less money than the ex-armed robber.

Day 94. Leafleting session for Conservatives In in South London (Tory group campaigning to stay in the European Union) in which I meet a Cabinet minister and we get on rather well. She invites me to an event with the Prime Minister the next day and although I am completely shattered I say I will try to come.  Have organised very successful community meeting for Britain Stronger in Europe with one of its head honchos which many people turn up to, including hottest volunteer. Everyone at the meeting breaks into applause thanking me for all the work I have done for the campaign. Am so exhausted barely make it through the two and a half hour meeting but limp home afterwards.

Day 95. Wake up after early night feeling refreshed and dash off to South London to meet the Prime Minister. Of course other people will be there but am looking so hot I am sure he will only have eyes for me. Use build up to Prime Minister’s speech to scout around room looking for BSE volunteers I fancy. See tall rather fat man and shamelessly go up to him. He eyes me up and down and we start talking. He is not perfect as he was smoking which I hate and has a belly at least as big as the ex-armed robbers. But he is very posh and I wonder if he is single. Shove myself to the front of the crowd that is waiting for David Cameron. He is sharing a platform with the new Labour mayor of London, the first muslim mayor of any major European city, Sadiq Khan. Although the Prime Minister has previously said that Sadiq Khan was an extremist this seems to have been forgotten as they join forces to promote Britain’s membership of the EU. David Cameron is very attractive and decide I will ask him for a job.  As he shakes hands with the crowd after his speech I put forward my proposal that I will be the government’s new Minister for Mental Health. When he questions my qualifications I tell him to check out the blog.

Day 96. Preparing for key speech I am going to give to Labour Party activists in my local area to try to get them to campaign to stay in the European Union. As my local constituency has a 29,000 Labour majority they pretty much have the whole area sewn up. As I grew scales and a tail before the last General Election and was diagnosed as an incurable Tory I have limited understanding of the concerns of Labour voters. Speak to highly intelligent Labour Party activist from Stronger In  about what to say in the speech. After I’ve spoken to him discover he’s still at school. The great thing with Stronger In is that everyone is highly intelligent and interested in politics. Is very similar to being at the BBC. Speak to hottest volunteer about content of my speech which he says is very good. .

Day 97. Spend whole day preparing for speech and reflecting on the fact that I have actually met someone very attractive who fancies me ie the hottest volunteer. But now I realise he is definitely interested in me my interest in him is waning. He comes to support me at the Labour Party event (my first ever political speech) and I realise that I don’t fancy him anymore.  As he is tall, dark, handsome, brilliantly intelligent and very nice this suggests that my sex drive is only activated by people who are dangerous or unavailable. Is this the real reason why I am still single?  That I don’t actually want to find Mr Right? Maybe I have “intimacy issues” and actually like being on my own…

I address a meeting of Labour Party activists in Queens Park in Brent about the benefits of the UK staying in the European Union according to the Bank of England the Confederation of British Industry the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and DevelopmentSpeech at Labour party event goes very well but I leave disturbed. Something is clearly very wrong with me.

Day 98. Spend whole day concealing I am a Tory while speaking to Labour councillors in my local area about campaigning in Stonebridge which was previously one of most notorious areas in Britain. I ask the councillor if my car will be stolen if I park there but he tells me I will be fine as long as I leave before dark. Have put on fake tan so look more ethnic for Stonebridge but am not sure how my expensive boarding school accent will go down. Hottest volunteer is coming (he wants to do all my campaigning with me!) and am going to have to face fact that here is a a gorgeous man, much younger than me, brilliantly intelligent and really quite into me that I have somehow gone off. Am I afraid of a functional relationship?

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Next week: Absolutely no idea….now I’ve met the Prime Minister maybe I’ll meet Barack Obama as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than 20,000 hits on my blog in a year after trying to make it as a writer since 1999..

I score more than 20,000 hits on my blog on WordPress US addiction site Addiction Unscripted and LinkedIn in less than a year

With some notable exceptions, my comedy writing career hasn’t been much of a success till now.  I started in 1999 with a sitcom based on the psychedelic antics of the acid dropping Buddhist monks, hippies and resident Clown of The Happy Hippie commune I’d stayed in when I was a teenager in California. The action was translated into inner city Peckham in South London, which in 1999 was far from gentrified. The main character, Helga who was brought up on a snail farm in Germany, had been dumped by her husband and reluctantly decamped from Prime Central London Belgravia to Peckham. When she’d got into her rented flat, she’d discovered Buttercup, an ageing hippy and tech nerd drop out from MIT,  meditating in a cupboard.  He’d been living in parks for seven years before that. They set up a Hippie magazine Ecology and soon word goes round London that anyone who can provide a service to the commune or magazine can get free accommodation. Various oddballs such as Kirk the “body guard” a former US marine who’d survived a nuclear explosion in the Pacific but said sayonara to his sanity afterwards and Dick a gay stripper turn up. Those of you who’ve read my post “Dropping acid with a bunch of Buddhist monks in California” will recognise the scenario. But the sitcom was much more political lampooning various left wing and politically correct activist groups.

The magazine is focused on various good causes  such as Amazonian Indians, Native Americans and trees. But is actually a load of rubbish based on a misunderstanding of Buddhist, Hindu and Native American philosophy. They engage in missions with various groups such as the Animal Liberation Front where they attempt and catastrophically fail to liberate 20,000 gerbils who are having bad perms on their eyebrows. Fuck ups are fundamental to the group. After printing a solid gold issue commemorating the death of the Dalai Lama (who’s unfortunately still alive) the magazine is stormed by hordes of angry Buddhists and they have to flee for their lives. The story charts the dot.com boom and bust as they set up a website in hiding, masterminded by Buttercup, who transforms from a downtrodden hippy to an Internet Entrepreneur.

The characters set up a hippie website that deals with various good causes including Amazonian Indians, Native Americans and Tree Conservation. They still spend their days dropping acid in the commune

The website with chanting, hallucinogenic effects and various new age philosophies becomes a massive cult hit with clubbers who are so stoned they think it’s really deep.  After the website is valued at £100 million pounds Buttercup launches a coup trying to sell it to Google. This is thwarted by the dot com bust but a talent war breaks out with companies trying to poach Buttercup who ends up earning a million pounds a year.

I sent the script to Curtis Brown, the premier TV writing agency in Britain and got a personal letter back from Ben Hall the man who’s now their CEO saying he had greatly enjoyed the script and that he was “very impressed with the craft” with which I wrote.

Ben Hall CEO of top London literary agency Curtis Brown writes me very positive letter about my comedy script

I also sent it to a friend, a senior TV comedy producer who’d worked with many big names, such as Lenny Henry, who said I “definitely could write” but that the sitcom would not be commissioned as it was too similar to existing sitcom Hippies.

But reading through the synopsis I wrote in 1999, now in 2016, I realise that the story was very funny, quite political and very topical.  If only I had had the persistence that I’ve developed in recovery plodding on with my writing career despite multiple setbacks I had enough material for a comic novel.  I bitterly regret all the energy and good ideas I wasted that came to absolutely nothing because I didn’t plough on with the idea.

My next project in 2001 was completely different – a short film that was a gothic horror story about a young couple who, while having sex for the first time in a romantic woodland setting, realise they are next to a corpse. The corpse looks exactly like the girl. She falls apart after the discovery unable to touch her boyfriend or share a bedroom with him. The girl is later haunted – or imagines – the voice of the dead girl echoing around her bedroom begging her to come back to the wood where she committed suicide. There are hints that the ghost may be that of the living girl’s sister. The girl goes back to the wood, after her boyfriend fails to stop her.  When she is in the wood the ghost suddenly says that she does not want to leave the girl. She invades the girls head saying she will never be alone again for a second, and the girl starts screaming realising she is going mad. The film ends with a flashback of the living girl gloating as she pushed her little sister out of a top floor window as a child.

People who read this short story said it was “gripping” and “a real page turner.” When I sent this short film into the National Film and Television School in 2002 they immediately rang me in Jamaica to ask me in for an interview.  Unfortunately as my mother was devastatingly ill in Jamaica I could not come back to England for the course.  Again, although I had had such good feedback on the film, I did nothing to get it produced.

The height of my comic writing career came when I had a series of 10 short factual comedy dramas about Jamaica broadcast on BBC Radio 4 to an audience of millions. These dramas which featured up to 15 characters, each performed in different accents by myself, were broadcast between 2001-2004 while I was living in Jamaica. But when I crashed out of my journalism career because of my cocaine addiction this avenue was permanently closed. In any event although I could arrange and perform the truth artistically in these dramas (which were broadcast on the “From Our Own Correspondent” programme) they had to stick closely to the facts.

My next fictional project was more ambitious: a feature film script called “The Fish Tank Babies.” This was based on a short comic story I’d written detailing my reluctance to get pregnant as “you waddle around like a walrus whose eaten too much dairy milk and can’t even pee or have sex properly afterwards.” Modern women I said were “badly designed” as “Thousands of generations of harpy-like fashion editors have liposucked our hips from the requisite 76” to 36″ inches. The solution I said was either to “return to a deeply unfashionable Stone Age sillouette or “Start growing babies in fish tanks”

The film is a satire on a glamorous driven career woman in New York, who is incredibly obnoxious but has a “perfect” life who wants children but is horrified by birth. Until very recently because of my lifelong eating disorder I could not contemplate getting pregnant and wanted to have a surrogate birth. The film also takes the piss out of the American pharmaceutical industry, as the main character is the Creative Director of an ad agency that produces glossy ads for products like “Nolaze” that treats a condition called “Morning Attention Deficit Disorder” or MADD and “Perfect” that deals with the symptoms of an epidemic disease called Limited Imperceptible Friction Energy or L.I.F.E.

Conned by the perfect commercials she creates, she decides she wants children and discovers that scientists in Japan have grown goats in artificial wombs. This last fact is actually true!  In my film the Japanese government are engaged in a top secret project to rescue their national economy by raising the IQ of the population by ten points.  By removing the element of pregnancy and birth they are trying to persuade the most intelligent and successful people who have the fewest children to have the most. The fishtank babies can also be mentally stimulated twenty four hours a day with Einstein’s theory of relativity piped directly into the tank, alternated with bursts of Mozart and soliloquies from Shakespeare. She emails the project and is amazed when three scientists from the Tokyo Ministry of Technology turn up at her door the following day. One of these is actually an undercover white supremacist, Smith, who has infiltrated the project trying to spread a blond haired blue eyed gene throughout the world. She goes to an Elite sperm bank to hand select the sperm donors who all produce glossy “dating videos” to attract the women. Of course everyone she chooses is over 6 foot, has been to Ivy League Universities and successful in their chosen field.

This has peculiar resonance with my own life at the moment as I want a sperm donor (preferably over 5 foot 10) who has been to a good university to create genius frozen embryos. This is to preserve my ability to have my own biological child as I am 46 and my eggs will soon be past their sell by date. The fertility clinic said a sperm bank in California has donors that look like film stars but I was horrified that you can’t get any photos of them. The honest truth is I would love a dating video of my sperm donor!

As the fish tank baby technique in the movie is experimental they have to create eight embryos in fish tanks to be sure some survive. Unfortunately all the babies survive and Sandra cannot bear to terminate any of them.  This causes her life to fall apart and for her to be sacked from her job after she asks for maternity leave without being pregnant. The children are incredibly advanced, crawling within a few days, speaking after a month and also have special powers like crawling vertically up walls.  She takes her employer to court for unfair dismissal and the babies at three months old give evidence in court to prove that she is their mother. The appearance of the children in court produces a media storm.

The main character softens during the film becoming more and more attached to the babies and swops her TV Executive boyfriend, who can’t get it up, for the caretaker of her building who is an impoverished writer but intelligent and actually cares about her.

After the white supremacists get wind of a plan to move the project to Tokyo they launch a plan to abduct all the babies and kill Sandra. But the babies with their special powers and the scientists outwit the commandos who are arrested by the police. The family including the caretaker end up in hiding but happy in a South American country.

My friend who is a comedy producer said that the central character was not attractive enough for the audience to care about her and that there were elements of the story that were unrealistic. She said the central character needed to be humanised and the slapstick toned down. She also suggested I could write it as a novel, which I did nothing about.

Reading this script in 2016 I see it has many good elements. Again with the slightest whiff of discouragement I abandoned the project and didn’t try to do anything with it.

Despite the chaos and trauma of my life between 1999 and 2005 when I got clean, I have lovingly preserved every one of these scripts that I have written as well as the short stories.

Although I almost killed myself with my cocaine addiction and bulimia and was forced into treatment at the beginning of 2005 by my family I still preserved every one of the comedy scripts and short stories I had written back to 1999

Considering that I didn’t keep a single receipt from the £300,000 building project I did to build my house in Notting Hill this is pretty amazing.

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Once I got into recovery I was so caught up with trying to stay clean and dealing with my mental health problems that I had little time for writing. But the dramatic events that had happened in rehab, including my getting it together with an ex-armed robber pimp and drug dealer who’d forgotten how long he’d spent in jail, stimulated my imagination. When I moved into a dry house on the edge of Notting Hill, the crazy shenanigans of the residents which my boyfriend referred to as “Lunatic Lane” inspired me to start writing again. But I only made a few notes before I became obsessed with a major building project to completely re-build a house.

After the building project was finished, I started full time on my first novel whose drug dealing hero/anti-hero was inspired by my boyfriend and where the central character was a journalist who had dropped out of her career because of her cocaine addiction.

The story starts with a talented young actress, Aurelia, on the brink of Hollywood fame, ODing in a crack house.  She comes to buried underground and, after a desperate struggle to escape, suffocates.

The other characters embark on a darkly humorous odyssey of addiction to avoid their feelings of guilt around her death.  Her mother, Lady Olivia, realising she has not been perfect as a parent, decides to organise a perfect funeral instead. A cosmetic surgery addict, she has a series of mishaps at the hands of various cowboys on Harley Street.   Aurelia’s father, Charles, a sex addict, who’s sexually abused Aurelia, becomes hooked on violent porn and sex with prostitutes. He persists in believing he’s a decent person, who’s basically misunderstood.

Aurelia’s sister, Charlie, an Oxford graduate, is the only member of the family whose life is not controlled by addiction. She is struggling to make ends meet as a journalist in New York, where she’s a rising star on a gossip column, poking fun at self-important celebrities.

Resolutely anti-drugs, she nonetheless gets drawn into the seedy world her sister inhabited as she investigates her death.  But she leads the police to Colin – the man responsible for Aurelia’s death.

Wracked with guilt over her sister, who she adored but also envied, Charlie becomes addicted to alcohol and starts dabbling in cocaine. After several Absolut disasters, she crashes out of her career in journalism and relapses on cocaine. She starts doing peculiar sexual favours for older men – including a man disguised as a cocker spaniel, nicknamed “Mr Woof.”  But, after a brutal experience with two clients, she gives up cocaine again and goes to stay at the house of her best friend, a loving normal family, to try to sort out her life.

Colin, whose life has been blighted by sexual abuse and his mother’s alcoholism has been caught and goes to prison, where he’s using heavily.  Eventually, the heroin stops working and, overwhelmed by guilt, he attempts suicide. He is introduced to a “listener,” an older prisoner who becomes like a father to him. He starts attending meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and gets clean. He also learns to wash.

Unable to stay off drugs, Charlie starts a relationship with a Jamaican drug dealer in Notting Hill. After a while, he says his life is under threat and needs her to bring a parcel of cocaine from Jamaica.  After being forced to return with the drugs, she realises she is pregnant. She leaves the dealer and gives up drugs.  But she continues to drink and, after the baby is born prematurely with a heart defect, it is taken into care.  On the point of killing herself, she decides she will give up alcohol instead.

Just as he’s about to flee the country, her father is arrested and charged with attempted murder after he’s attacked and almost killed two prostitutes.

Charlie cannot stop drinking and tries to get into rehab. Her father will not pay. She gets funding from her local council at a rehab bristling with ex-cons.  After a procedural cock-up, Colin arrives. They clash repeatedly in group.  But Charlie realises Colin has changed and that both their lives have almost been destroyed by guilt.  After they leave, they become much closer and, eventually, kiss.  Charlie’s father is convicted of attempted murder and stays in jail. The baby recovers after an operation on her heart. And, as Charlie is now off the booze and drugs, the social workers say that, if she stays clean, she can be re-united with the baby.

The exciting news with this novel was that the Editorial Director of a major publishing house was interested in the novel and had agreed to read it when it was finished. I set about writing the novel with absolutely no clue how to do. And when I had finished the gargantuan 250,000 word first draft and enrolled on a course in novel writing, realised it would have to be completely rewritten. After doing this I sent it to the publisher where it was read by everyone including the Editorial Director who said:

“It is a multi-layered novel which deals with the desperate consequences of addiction through a complex family drama, successfully weaving the two together. There are convincing darkly comic moments and characters. Despite the appalling situations all the characters find themselves in, there is a sense of hope threaded throughout the novel, which offers an uplifting message to a very serious topic. Overall, I thought it provided a real insight into addiction and exposes the sad truths behind it but it would be too commercial for our list.”

I then set about trying to obtain an agent for the novel. While I was waiting to hear from agents about the novel I started writing the sequel “Hippy Ever After” about the relationship and adventures of Charlie and Colin as they try to build a house and life together in Notting Hill. The blurb for this novel was as follows:

Celebrity neighbours, punch-ups with a minor royal and a basement full of exotic sharks…..

When unlikely couple Charlie and Colin choose to build a nest in one of London’s most fashionable zones they get a lot more eggs than they’d bargained for.

Will their love survive the chasm in their backgrounds and bank balances?

As well as the dark forces that are trying to drive them apart..

And will Colin, whose only home was a crack house, avoid cracking up?

When I showed the synopsis to my ex-boyfriend it was so close to my life with him he said “are you seriously telling me this is fiction.” Those of you who have read my blog posts “When celebrities destroy your house and cut through your bedroom door with a carving knife saying “we miss you” and “Armageddon with the ex-armed robber” will have an idea of the story. Though of course the big difference between my life and this novel is that I did not build my house in Notting Hill, with its constant interruption by celebrity neighbours, film stars and soap star lodgers with my ex-armed robber boyfriend. It was my house in Kensal Green, which had no celebrity involvement, that I built with him. I wrote this novel in a blaze of creativity at the end of 2013, writing 75,000 words in less than 5 weeks, as I knew a major building project was coming up on my rental property and I would not be able to write for a while.

As I prepare for a major building project on my house in Notting Hill I complete my second novel writing 75,000 words in less than 5 weeks

In fact I had a nervous breakdown because of the building project and as my boyfriend, who I was still involved with, was having a baby with someone else. So I was not able to write anything for almost a year.

As I wrote Hippy Ever After so quickly I have only just read it now. Although it is a very hurried first draft and needs a lot of work it is funny and has potential. After I recovered from the nervous breakdown I got back into the first novel.

A friend of mine had said that if I wanted to be a writer I should be promoting my work on Twitter. I thought “I’ve got nothing to promote so I’ll start to write a blog.”  I was really only doing it to kill time while I was waiting to hear from agents about my novel. I started posting bloginhotpants on WordPress almost exactly a year ago.

From the beginning the reaction of readers was different to my previous work. I had many hits on the blog from my first post on Facebook and comments such as  “hilarious,” “sad, funny and shocking,” “Lord Byron’s got nothing on you,” and “this is very good you should turn it into a book it would be a best-seller.” Later readers commented that I was “changing their lives by revealing these intimate details.”

I had had absolutely no engagement with social media prior to writing the blog. I was not even on Twitter and never posted on Facebook. When I started I didn’t even know how to send a Tweet but did a social media course.  I gradually learned how to use social media to promote the blog coming up with funny posts on Facebook and Twitter. I acquired almost 4,000 followers on Twitter. I read everything I could get my hands on on how to increase traffic to your blog.

This year I started posting on a US addiction website and Linkedin so most of my 20,000 hits have come in the last few months. The big difference between the blog and my previous writing, apart from the comedy dramas for the BBC, was my level of dedication and persistence. I treat the blog like a job doing a little on it every day. And now I have been writing it for a year I have basically completed a memoir. I still want to get the blog published but feel a tremendous sense of fulfilment from my 20,000 hits and the wonderful comments I’ve got from readers.

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Next week: Clearing the infestation of serial killers from my laundry basket, chest of drawers, wardrobe and even the deep freeze – my recovery from a lifetime of OCD.