4 December 2015
Back to work
Jason has just mentioned the Lady we had dinner with, and called her wholesome. I had to think for a bit, what he meant by wholesome, but understand what he is getting at. Good, honest, true. Three words to describe her. Three words we should all aspire too!
She cooked Italian and we spent a good five hours chatting about everything. It isn't until you sit down with someone, that you discover the real truth, the real person and their real purpose. In all honesty, so many people have said their bit and had their say, that sometimes, the facts get skewed and that has been a major problem all along the line.
It was a wonderful, relaxing and enjoyable evening, spent with someone who has a heart of gold and truly made us feel welcome, as ever. When you go into someones house, there are occasions when you feel uncomfortable, this was nothing but. We had a lovely time and will reciprocate as soon as we are able!
4 December 2015
In this rehash of my second blog, Forever Enduring Cycles, I refer to Darrell as Jason, his birth name. We both changed our titles, when we left for Spain after taking legal advice. Writing about ones old employer, after the injustices they committed would have been impossible, using our real identities; a pseudonym was the answer. Three years have passed since I began blogging; although I still write under the name Luke Martin-Jones, I am no longer afraid to reference my partner and I in the correct manner! In time, as Oxfam are finally brought to account, I will once again be able to speak freely, without fear of reprisals!
Reflections - 24 March 2018
In the first part of this blog entry, entitled 'Burning ones Bridges,' first written on 4 December 2015, Darrell and I spent an evening at a friends house; dinner and conversation flowed late into the night.
Both of us were invited to a work colleagues home, another Manager who was based in Eastleigh. Since the person in question no longer works for Oxfam, I am happily allowed to refer to her by name; Hilary. Like us, Hilary had become a victim in Oxfam's games; bullied, sidelined and abused by a Manager who had no thought for her staff. Hilary was still working for them at the time we paid a visit; this period at Oxfam was a strained affair and not one she looks back on with fondness and who can blame her.
We had a wonderful relaxing night, spent in the company of a dear close friend, who remains in contact today, exchanging correspondence frequently. The three of us had much to talk about. I was returning to work at the very time Hilary was leaving. She couldn't take the harassment any longer. Like Darrell and I, her health had suffered dramatically and it was the right time for her to take a final bow.
Without people like Hilary my life would have been far more difficult. She was a great source of advice and comfort at the time and was there when no one else was. We all shared our problems often, it helped us come to terms with what was going on. It is sad that other Managers didn't offer support us at such a crucial time, but looking back I can understand why. Most had no idea what was going on and others had seen it all before, not wanting to become Veronica Raymond's latest victim. We three were the lucky ones, getting out when we could. It is painful giving up a career, you have dedicated your life to, but in the long run, sat here writing today, it was the best thing that could have happened.
The second half of this entry refers to the night we finally began to go through decades of paperwork. Our impending move to Spain, was becoming a reality, so we both felt it was time to start destroying a lifetime of documents. This was a difficult process; even after being together over twenty years, we both had to keep everything, that proved our partnership. The Foreign Office could demand access to our files at anytime, in order to verify we are still together; we kept the most important files and burnt the rest.
It's funny really, now we both live in Spain, we have no need to keep any of these papers. We have lived outside of the United Kingdom too long now, so Darrell's entitlement to live and work in Britain, is no longer an option. He would have to go through a process of settlement once again, as he did twenty years ago. Since neither of us intend returning, our life in the UK has come to an abrupt end and we can finally rid ourselves of all references to our time together living in Southampton. As a hoarder and collector, I doubt I will get rid of these memories anytime soon!
A big thankyou to Julie from 'vpnmentor.com' for her kind comments about the rehash of my blog 'Forever Enduring Cycles,' featured on 'Spanish Views.' Like Julie, I believe it is important to protect children from dangers on the internet. Bullying can take many forms and is prevelant online, more so in 2018. Please take a look at this ultimate, parent guide for keeping your children safe and help us all stamp out the spectre of bullying.
If your child is experiencing bullying, your first port of call should be the school. Speak to your childs form teacher, head of year and headmaster or mistress. It is important to stop abuse in its tracks, before the damage done becomes irrepairable. If you look in the 'links' section of 'Spanish Views,' you will also find various helplines you can contact confidentially!
Thank you for your continued support!
4 December 2015
I've promised myself, I would stay up until 2am, to finish what I am doing. Haven't got a lot of time left to get everything cleared out now, so every minute counts. Trying to decide what is worth keeping, is hard though, really hard, as everything, holds so many memories for us!
Trying to work out, what memory, is worth more than another memory is really quite hard, so I have decided, simply to base it on time. The older the item is, memory wise, the more likely I am going to keep it. It is working so far!
A lot of the bulk has already gone to the car boot sale. I used to have so many dust collectors, that I had no choice. Selling items for a pound each though, is hard, which is why Jay Greaves and Jason have carried out the task of selling. I would just have second thoughts, and bring everything home with me again. Really I would!
It is a lot easier, now we have found a good auction house. Believe me, they are hard to find, few and far between, but these seem OK, thus far. More boxing up of stuff tomorrow, although this time, the items I am going to keep, so a much happier task all round!
Peace and love always!
Reflections - 5 February 2018
I am reminded of how difficult my life had become, just over two years ago. One has to remember the preparations we were making for our emigration to Spain was born out of adverse times, which made the disposing of possessions, even more difficult. I was feeling very resentful at the whole process and wanted to just get it over and done with.
They do say moving is the most stressful time of your life; well I have to concur with that, in fact for obvious reasons, this was the most difficult move of our relationship. We made our decision to relocate many months before, so the reality is, we had a prolonged period of packing, organising and clearing out. These endless months, were extremely stressful, putting strain on our relationship and my health, which was already in a bad state.
I am glad this chapter in my life is now over; it remains a painful memory, but a distant one, the more time passes. Of course we have moved again since we left for Spain, under much happier circumstances. This time we were packed and gone within a few days. I have much less stuff now, than I ever have and aim to further trim down, the baggage I have. As I get older, it is more important to scale down the items I have around me; they have become less and less important. I have come to the conclusion that life is much simpler, without 'things.' Of course I will never be a minimalist, but I am happy to admit, I am enjoying life far more, now I have been liberated from the shackles that kept me grounded in the past.
3 December 2015
Reflections - 2 February 2017
The one aspect of life I miss living in Spain, is spending time with friends. We had a lot of good friendships back home, built up over many years and although I do stay in contact, messaging as often as I can, it really isn't the same, as popping out for a bottle of wine and putting the World to rights. It's strange this entry popped up today; I have just been messaging a mate, from Southampton, Richard, who I haven't seen in over four years; it was good to talk to him. At my time of life, memories are important.
Of course I still have friendships here in Spain, but they are not the close ones, I was used to, living in the UK. I avoid getting too attached to people these days, because of past experiences anyway. Spain is a very social place, with most people out and about having a drink or two in the many bars here, but it still isn't the same as home. I was far more social a few years ago, enjoying the company of others; today it is very different; or maybe I am!
My more cautious approach to life has its benefits, but it also feels very lonely. In Britain, people did seem far more open, friendly and of course less judgemental. I am not saying for one minute, that everyone here is at adds with these attributes, but rather, this is my perception of those around me. Don't forget we have only lived in Spain for a very short while, we have no idea how that will change in the future. I do miss the social interaction I enjoyed, but I am also mindful of the difficulties I experienced, because of some of those we were close to in the past.
Today, I socialise in a very different way. I don't see people that often, but communicate everyday via the internet; without which, life would be very difficult. The internet feeds my need for friendship, past and present. I look forward to returning to the UK soon for a short visit, where at least I will have an opportunity to catch up with those I left behind and maybe have a bottle of Rioja or two. Until then myself and Darrell just keep out heads down and get on with our lives, away from the hustle and bustle of city life; a welcome break after years of turmoil!
2 December 2015
2 December 2015
Reflections - 9 January 2018
I was in two minds about reviewing this entry today, since I have discovered that Sam and Laura are no longer together as a couple; however it is important for me to discuss every aspect of my life in 2015; such an important year for me. I met Sam through Christopher Bunday, who just happens to be staying with Darrell and me at the moment. Like Chris, Sam comes from Hythe, or rather Marchwood, situated on Southampton Water, just outside the New Forest; If I remember rightly a more upmarket neighbourhood in Southampton; so I am told. He is a great lad, with a tremendous work ethic, respectful and someone I saw often when Chris lived with me; about ten years ago now.
In December 2015, we were doing the rounds, visiting those close, before we moved to Spain in January. Fitting in everyone was difficult. Darrell and I were busy most of the time; consequently, we were unable to see many, we would have liked to say goodbye too. After a lunch date in Totton, near Sam and Laura’s house, we popped in to see them both and their new son Arthur; who it has to be said, was a feisty one. It was great to see them all together as a family. I was sad to hear they both parted ways; but understand the pressures all families are under today.
There were a few children in my life at the time, most noticeably baby Imogen, the daughter of our friend Kirsty Hooper. Up until this point there were no youngsters of note. It is rather poignant that we became close to Imogen in particular, at a time when we were preparing to move abroad. I would have loved to remain a part of Imogen’s life, as I would others, like Arthur and indeed my own cousin Rachael’s latest child, but circumstances prevented me from doing so.
Unlike my husband Darrell, I wanted to have children, but when we were young, it was an impossible undertaking. I have always loved kids, working with underprivileged children in the UK and of course teaching here in Spain. I suppose that was my way of having contact with our future generation, even though I was unable to have any of my own. This very topic cropped up the other day, while I was working at LoungeD; I was asked if I wanted a family, by one of our customers. Of course I would love to adopt, but at my time of life, in my current situation, that would be impossible. I’ll leave that to those who have the abilities to do so.
I do have friends, who are gay, who have children; they remain a beacon for others who hope to one day follow their example. Richard Leach, the ‘Cakeman’ from my home town is a fantastic father; a doting Dad, like no other. Many I have known also had the ability, far more than I, to become the fathers they so deserve, gay or not. Jay Greaves, who used to be close to myself and Darrell, helping us through some very difficult times, was fantastic with kids; in fact I have personally never seen someone ‘do it better.’ I hope in time, he will also realise his dream of fatherhood. I come from a large family myself. I remember as a teenager, I would go and visit my Gran and Grandad and there would always be children about, which is great when you are growing up. If you have the expertise to bring up a child, especially as a gay man, you should. What a wonderful way to give something back.
When I look at some of those who have children these days, for no other reason than they can, I am shocked at some of the parenting skills employed. Mothers screaming at their little ones in shops, smacking them, abusing them in public, let alone in the privacy of their own home and of course, the terrible cases of child abuse one reads about in newspapers everyday. No child needs to suffer this way, there is a queue of well able and superbly qualified parents from all sectors of the community wanting to give a good home to those in greatest need.
I am struck at how well behaved children are in Spain; they seem to be so different to their British counterparts. The concept of family is far more important here, with more focus on unity and encouragement; as a consequence siblings seem to be closer. Society in Spain allows for a more stable, nurturing and supportive environment in which children can grow, develop and aspire, achieving all they want to. A child’s life is far more outdoor centric and they seem, at least on the surface to be far more grounded. These are of course only my own observations, other people may totally disagree. Living in Spain has taught me a lot about the values surrounding family, something I never really had when I was in the UK.
So there we have it a blog about a certain day in December; at a time when I was visiting friends and family, saying my goodbyes. A difficult turning point for me and Darrell, but part of the process of renewal, rather like the arrival of Arthur. The birth of anything new, a baby, new direction or fresh start, is important for all of us, in order to evolve as people. Baby Arthur served as recognition, that new times were ahead and our future was no longer based in Southampton. It was good to see them and say goodbye, but just as Arthur had a new life ahead of him, so did we.
I haven’t been back to see anyone in Southampton yet; I’m sure I will in time; equally I am sure I will be shocked at just how much both Arthur and Imogen have grown. I wish both of them all the luck in the World for a wonderful future. They are lucky to have loving parents, who will cater for their every need, what more can I child ask for.
1 December 2015
Had an appointment at the Auctioneers today, still getting rid of stuff and trimming down life. It's actually a very therapeutic thing to do once in a while; clearing out the cobwebs and trashing the dead wood, now isn't it about time we all did that!
The end to a perfect day, sat here on the sofa, watching my favourite, feel good comedy, 'Rat Race.' It actually cracks me up, haven't stopped laughing, no matter how many times I watch it!
Peace and Love, always!
Reflections - 30 December 2017
Two years ago, I was busy packing, selling the family silver and offloading items; many of which, had been in my life twenty years or more. I found the whole process liberating, yes, but also an emotional roller coaster. When you make the decision to move abroad, nothing can prepare you for the difficulties you face, parting with personal items, not necessarily of value, but objects you have a deeply personal attachment to. On 1 December 2015, Darrell and I had a rare day out, away from all the commotion in our life, visiting local bars and restaurants in the Portswood area of Southampton.
Looking at this entry I am immediately back in my old student stomping ground. I was a regular visitor to this part of the City, always enjoying my time here. One can not help but get a little nostalgic for ones home town, especially when looking back at photo's, as I am now, writing about this day. The one aspect of life I miss, living in Spain, is the nightlife in Southampton; always buzzing and full of energy. Last night as I walked home from work, I was struck by how quiet it was, so different to the life I left behind.
Darrell has just said to me, he isn't sure if all this reminiscing about the past is healthy and doing me any good and he is probably right, but it is something I need to do, to understand where I have come from and recall just what we went through back then. I need to keep the memories of what happened alive, otherwise I would allow the bullies at Oxfam to get away with what they did. This entry illustrates perfectly, the turmoil my life was in. Reading between the lines, I can see just how vulnerable I was at the time, trying to hold on to an existence, that was slowly slipping away. A meal in a restaurant, that we used to enjoy regularly, had turned into a trip down memory lane.
I still heard from my volunteers at Oxfam, despite not being in-situ through illness. A card congratulating us on our recent Wedding meant the World to me, at a time when my World was literally crumbling before my eyes. Volunteers are the life force of any charitable enterprise; like me they were victims of a trust that had no value for them or those they were supposed to be helping. Even today, most of the volunteers I worked with, on a daily basis have no idea what really happened to myself, Darrell and others, caught up in a dangerous sociopathic game. They would have been told some untruth about our departure, as they had been in the past. Oxfam are masters at cover ups and have been doing it to protect themselves, probably since their inception in 1948. Recently I was lucky enough to speak to one of my colleagues, who had informed me, that many of those I used to employ are once again working, after a shop I was responsible for, closed down; doing what they do best, working to help others, making poverty history!
26 November 2015
Happy Birthday to my partner Jason. Here's hoping that 2016 will be better than the last. Remember one thing, you have always had right on your side!
All my love Darren x
Reflections - 15 December 2017
I remember my partners Birthday in 2015; it wasn't the usual happy affair, it had been in the past. Even at a time when we both should have been relaxing and enjoying the day, just a little bit more than normal, we couldn't. The stress of what was going on around us, was still very much at the forefront of our minds.
Both of us were still questioning, whether or not we had done the right thing, in bringing Veronica Raymond's bulling activities to the the attention of Oxfam. I was personally in no doubt, this woman had to be stopped; my partner less so, believing we were being used to do the work of others, a scapegoat if you like. He was probably right; no one else, above our grade were willing to stand up and be counted; they were too scared to confront this poor excuse for a human being, allowing her to continue down her destructive path. It was no wonder we both questioned our situation and at times had to reassure each other, that we were doing the right thing. Looking at ourselves and analysing our circumstances was commonplace, we did it nearly everyday. Although Oxfam encouraged us to complain against Veronica, there was no back up or support, to get us through this difficult process; they had left us to deal with everything alone.
At the time I wrote this entry, we had both made our decision to move to Spain, where we are both settled and happy today. As I look through my lounge door, towards the garden room; the sun streaming through the windows on this warm December day, I am amazed that I never moved to Spain earlier. At the end of 2015 I was hoping for a much better year ahead; my final year in the UK had been truly dreadful. All I could do was look forward optimistically. If anything 2016 was more difficult than the previous year. We were both away from the sociopaths that stalked Oxfam, but we were restarting our life in a new Country; lack of employment, a return to Australia, illness and difficulties in acclimatising to the Spanish sun were all factors that prevented us moving forwards faster than we would have liked. We may well be closer to where we want to be now, but there is still work we need to do, in order to enjoy the security and lifestyle, we both desire for the future. A positive outlook and attitude, will most certainly see us through, we have come a long way since November 2015!
25 November 2015
Reflections - 8 December 2017
It has been a long time since April 2015, when I was taken out of work because of the behaviour of my boss. At the time I wrote this entry, it had been seven months and I was approaching the end of a process, to try and bring Veronica Raymond to book, for her bullying, harassment, homophobia and sociopathic behaviour. It had been a long road; I had suffered terribly but so to had others. I was lucky, having been signed off sick, other colleagues were still working for this woman, agonizing every single day; at least I was away from her.
This is the first time, I have reread any of these entries from that traumatic period; it can be difficult, putting oneself back in the shoes I was wearing at the time. Equally it is hard recalling events but surprising, how quickly these memories come flooding back. Even from this short entry, I am able to discover much about what was happening at the time, Reading between the lines, I do sound very bitter don't I? I had become extremely cynical about people, their motives and nature; I was only thinking about myself, as it should be after such awful times.
When I look back to November 2015, a few months after mine and Darrell's wedding and eight weeks before we left for Spain, I am struck by my ability to keep fighting. Many people in my position, working for Oxfam and other organisations, would have given up a long time ago. There were many times I wanted to walk away from this disciplinary process, but kept on going, because I believed in justice. As I know now, it was a thankless task. Veronica Raymond was never held accountable for her actions and she still remains in situ.
Today, approaching 2018, I remain angry about my treatment, also about the abuses of others. The statement above is as true today, as it was then. I don't take any nonsense from anyone anymore, avoid the worst elements and am well aware of the danger signs to look out for. Oxfam are indeed a dreadful group, but all of those individuals I had contact with during my final months there, taught me much about people. I am able to survive today, because I observed the worst characters I have ever met. Their characteristics, lies, cover ups and manipulation instilled within me a sense of knowing; understanding just how bad others can be!
24 November 2015
This is a fictional account of a real story!
These times were sent to test us! Should I fail my conscience, I will forever know that I did what I could, to stop the enduring pain that now engulfs my memories, all my thoughts and reside permanently in a place, I never want to revisit, until my final few hours on this Earth. These words are words that will never be spoken of again. They are difficult sentences to write and even more difficult to recall. Recall them I will. Every night, I close my eyes, the darkness that spreads through my whole existence, will descend upon my dreams, a recurring nightmare, that has haunted me every day that a try and rest my broken mind. To reconcile the terrible, unbearable, incomprehensible series of events, that now dominate my life, with the aspirations of the child I once was, with hopes and ambitions that will always cause a wound that will never be healed. Changed forever, emotionally destroyed and wrestling with pain, that will never go away. Rejected by friends and family, never understood by most, accepted by a few, but the pure truth, the words on my heart, chizzled on the grave stone, that will sit as a reminder, of just what happened to myself and others, who did no more than help others who needed to be empowered to do all the things I thought I would. The biggest, uneasy realization of my life now and forever!
I was always so full of ambition. There was so much I wanted to do. As a young boy, I was focused and knew where I wanted to go. Not one of us believes we will ever end up, in a situation, so obscure and heinous that a drama, could never pay justice to it. This is the first day I am able to sit quietly, put words on a page and really accept, that what I am seeing is true. Until today, my thoughts were so jumbled and misunderstood, even I doubted them. To place doubt in oneself, is an awful thing. For others, perpetuating that doubt, even worse. This Sunday, after five days of understanding, I can now piece together the scraps of evidence that only I could have collected. Not on paper, but in my mind, that, although tired, will always be lucid enough to recall these events. After all, they have been with me, for what seems a life time, yet in reality, they have only been confirmed within my soul for six months. I have spent this time, searching for the truth, explanations and closure. Today, at least, I can close this last open door, behind which the reality of my situation lies.
In 2008, after suffering, from what I thought was depression, something clicked inside of me. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to experience a level of self respect the years had crumbled away. I applied for a job within the church, as a Librarian. I loved books The touch and feel, the smell, the words of people, many people, now gone, but the books a reminder of who they once were, a living memory of lives, no longer there. Books telling stories, of bravery, love, anger and pain, books with a past and permanent future that we can always dip in and out from, at will. Taking a little bit of someone we never knew, with us, on our journey through life.
I had no expectations. If anything, I believed it would be the first of many applications, before I could achieve my goal of working again. I had a chequered history, where work was concerned, always achieving and failing at the same rates. No middle ground, just muddle and confusion over another failure in life, when I so wanted to succeed. I just wanted to do something in my life that I was finally a success at. I wanted to prove to myself and others, that I could be an achiever and not that constant failure, I was always reminded I was by others!
It was a hot day, the interview was in Pimlico, above that dusty old church in the High Street. I remember entering the room. It had a strange shape window, a bit like that house in Amityville. I always loved that film. The truth behind it scared me beyond my years. I was interviewed by Susan and Rachel, two genuinely wonderful people, who I respect, over and above anyone, I have ever worked with since. They had there own stories to tell, battles they fought, but both with so much love for those who worked with them, it was humbling. True spiritual and dedicated individuals, who were there to help others, including myself, without any ulterior motives.
I hadn't had an interview in a while, so assessing how well it went, or not, was difficult. I just remembered thinking, what great people they would be to work for. I actually enjoyed speaking to both of them, they were open and receptive and that always helps to put any candidate at ease. It was a boiling hot day, I was wearing a suit and was sweating. I hate sweating at the best of times, but in an interview, it just made me more anxious and annoyed me tremendously. On leaving the church, I kicked myself, thinking, they were probably instantly put off, by this sweaty mess in front of them. I convinced myself, the job was not for me and left!
I received a call shortly afterwards, from Susan. She was a cheerful, happy and uplifting Lady, who I adored. I had got the job. They believed I was the right person for the position and it was mine. For someone like me, who had gradually set my expectations lower, the more failures I experienced, it was an achievement, unmatched. It was my dream job and I was working with people I thought were great. On top of this I was working for the church, making money for good causes. I could not be happier!
Susan was my Manager for a short while, followed by Rachel, for about two years. This was a happy and productive time for me. I worked long hours, over and above what was expected, but I did not care. It was about proving to myself and others that I had integrity and what it takes to be successful. I loved the Library and the large number of volunteers who worked with me. True, selfless people, who gave up their time for nothing, to help me, the church and the causes it championed. People who were happy to go to work and loved what they were doing. The atmosphere was always happy. We all worked together as a team and results showed. Church donations from the Library were rising.
I also decided to do an NVQ, off my own back, encouraging my Deputy at the time, Paul, to join me. We worked well together and I was experiencing new and exciting opportunities each and everyday. Successful times, growing numbers of volunteers, and above all encouragement and motivation. Rachel would come to my shop as often as she could, weekly in the main. He would take me to conferences, ask me to help him with various projects, meetings and plans and I was given the utmost respect, as I always did for Rachel.
In 2010, Rachel left, she was retiring. She was a big loss for me. She was everything I would have loved to have been. I looked up to her, admired her character and found her a true Lady, in every respect. She pushed me ever onwards and was an asset to the church and those who worked in it. She deserved a happy and successful retirement.
My new boss was Alison. She was middle aged, at the time approachable, a bit dowdy and terribly interested in me and strangely my life, in all aspects. This was unusual for me, as I was only used to a Business relationship. At first I was unsure what to make of her approach, but accepted it was her Management style and we became close working colleagues.
I saw less of Alison than Rachel, which for me at the time, showed she had confidence in my abilities as Head Librarian and did not question her motives, why would I? I hardly knew her, but like most people gave her the benefit of the doubt. She was difficult to track down at times. Rachel always produced a monthly diary, which she would sent to his Managers, so we knew where he was and was easily contactable. Alison said it would not be her way of doing things. It made everyone's job harder, but I accepted it.
This was a time, when I began to see less and less of Alison, less than I felt was necessary, to provide me with the motivational, inspirational and appropriate help I needed to continue with success. For the first time Volunteers didn't see my superior, they did not know her name, indeed who she was. I am really not sure why a Manager would think it proper to distance themselves from those who essentially kept the church the success it was, but what could I do. Management styles were always different, this one was just one I had never experienced before. I didn't like it or approve of her ways and it was alien to me, but she did show herself now and again, so as a shop we continued doing what we did best, 'Making The Lords Voice Heard'!
This was also a time where my responsibility as a Manager was changing. Donations was slipping. There was constant change in the Library, as we tried to find out the factors behind decline. Alison remained aloof from the church and I began to take on more and more responsibility. At first I was happy to do this. I was helping St Edmunds and able to broaden my knowledge and experience.
Alison was also changing. I was expressing concern and was asking for help in finding solutions to problematic areas. She was not forthcoming. She told me things were fine. They were not and I knew it, the volunteers knew it and the congregation were well aware of the issues surrounding their Community Library, but she was not. Her only reaction to falling income was to take on more responsibility as Head Librarian, to justify my salary. I agreed and this was the first time, I began to fear for the shop itself, my position and failing health. I had to do it, to protect myself, my shop and the ideals of volunteers and St Edmunds. There was a huge amount of pressure on me, but with the help of my new Deputy, we would get through these times, until income began to pick up again.
I was always a positive person, I had to be. After the turmoil in my life, I had to look beyond current situations and beyond to the future. Depression had turned into Bipolar, my health was slipping ever further, but I would get through it, I was strong and my team were dedicated, now all I needed was more support from Alison. How could she refuse?
I was confronted by Alison at a meeting with local Clergy, after a series of messages from one of my volunteers expressing concern about myself and my illness. She had been liaising with him on a regular basis. My medical condition was disclosed and most hurtfully and disturbingly a suicide attempt. A series of statements were made about me. Drugs and alcohol were also being discussed openly between the two of them and I was horrified. Accusations were being made about me, which were untrue or had nothing to do with my position at the church. I was shattered by the whole experience.
I had tried to commit suicide. The lack of support at work and resulting, faltering relationship was becoming and issue and I felt I had no other option. I took around a hundred pills and had made peace with myself. I wanted to leave this life, it was the end for me and I had accepted that. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, born of neglect, failure and lack of support. With a bipolar diagnosis under my belt, I felt my long term partner would be better off without me.
As I laid on the sofa in our lounge, tears rolling down my face, I knew this was the end. My eyes closed and the next thing I saw was something I shall never forget until my dying day. I was flying above green fields, full of beautiful technicolour flowers. I could smell the air, the blooming colour and the fresh blue sky. It was peaceful and quiet, just a few birds singing. I felt relaxed and happy. Suddenly I saw a familiar face, it was my partner. I tried to reach out to him, but he was gone. Then, just as quickly I saw more faces, a bit like a camera roll, flashing before my very eyes. Everyone was alive. I just remember trying to grab hold of each one. I just could not quite do it. I was scared. Had no idea what was happening and just wanted it to stop. Then a tunnel, just a tunnel, no light at the end, just a dark endless tunnel. I knew what was happening. This was the end of my life. This was finality, the end of everything. It was the most traumatic thing I had ever experienced and I was truly dying.
I was awoken by a friend. From the corner of my eyes, I could see the mayhem surrounding me. I wanted to go back. This was not how it was supposed to be. I wanted to be dead and I wasn't. Sally, dear Sally had saved my life. I was ushered into an ambulance and taken to Hospital. I must have passed out again, although I believe my airway had collapsed in the Ambulance. Apparently the blue lights came on and they got me to A&E as quick as possible. Sally said afterwards, making me smile, how terribly important she felt as those lights switched on. The traffic seemed to zoom past the ambulance, ever quicker as they tried to save my life. Thanks to Sally I am here today. Another memory that will live with me forever.
I don't remember much about the meeting with Alison, accept, I was distressed. I had just survived a suicide attempt and now my whole life was being thrown into question. I remember one of the clergy saying her Aunty had Bipolar, so he totally understood what was happening with my health issues. Alison said very little. She was cold and emotionless. I was not understanding this massive sea change in my boss, she was not what I had ever expected and she was becoming less and less recognisable as time moved on. Deflated, emotional and shocked I went back to the Library, more depressed than ever.
The following eighteen months, can only be described as degeneration and shocking neglect. These months I saw Alison so little I was concerned. She had taken my Deputy from me. He felt pressured into at first accepting an unpaid role, telling me on numerous occasions how much he hated the job. This was also the first time he had expressed concern about Alison as a Manager. He felt intimidated and bullied by her. There was no trust and an inability to offer support.
My partner was also working for church at this time, having been offered a Wardens role. He was so happy to have a job, that also meant something to him. He had been going through a rough time in his previous job and felt he had now achieved something he had always wanted. He also became close to Alison. He had no family left, my family were unable to offer the bonds he needed and Alison seemed interested in him as a person. He was able to talk to her about subjects, that as a rule, only close family and friends were there for. I found this a little strange and totally unprofessional on her part, but knew he needed someone to talk too. I was more concerned about just how long she would be there for him, based on previous experience. I accepted that it was helping him at a difficult time.
As my health continued to falter, so did that of my former Deputy. I expressed concerns for his Health to Alison, asked for help in the Library, expressed fears for my depression and all the time took on more and more responsibility, as income continued to fall. There was no help forthcoming, and I felt more and more isolated. My Deputy's health was now becoming of great concern for me. Alison was his line Manager, yet he could not speak to her. She was a bully, offered no empathy and was increasing his work load more and more. He was a shell of his former self. He needed help and she wasn't their for him. Again and again I expressed my concerns along with my new Deputy Manager. We had real fears for his welfare. Still nothing was done.
He resigned shortly afterwards. He gave me his resignation. He was in tears. When I told Alison, she tried to make him resign with immediate effect. This seemed odd, since he had been signed off sick. I told him not too, he followed my advice. She seemed angry at this, but He was my concern, not her.
There was another suicide attempt. I could not get any help from Alison at all. My life was collapsing around my eyes and I had reached another low point. A friend was once again there for me saved my life. On this occasion I walked out of Hospital before assessment. I have no idea how I got home, but I was woken up at 3am by the Police, breaking into my house. They had a duty of care to preserve my life and had been searching for me around the Hospital grounds. I spent four hours with Police and Doctors coming in and out of my house, assessing whether I was fit and of sound mind, to make a decision about my own health.
During the last months in situ as Head Librarian, things got dramatically worse. An altercation between myself and another Manager and the resulting dismissal of events by Alison caused a complete Bipolar Relapse. I was arrested in the Easter of 2015, after trying to take my own life once again. On release, I was charged into the care of my partner and heavily sedated. I don't really remember the next few months, but they were most distressing for all concerned. For that I am truly sorry.
Since these events, my partner has been signed off sick from St Edmunds, after a series of bullying and events I can only describe as disgusting, using language and untruths I am still in shock about today. His health has deteriorated rapidly and he is now heavily medicated. We both continue to experience horrendous anonymous phone calls from those who seek to destroy us.
My health collapsed further over the last six months, as I was left unmedicated and experienced mental illness in its full unrelenting glory. Rapid Cycling Mixed State Bipolar, severe head pain, Post Traumatic Stress and isolation. An illness left to fend for itself and a complete reluctance by Alison to admit responsibility.
Both myself and my partner are going through a grievance process as part of the shocking and shameful incidents, neglect, lack of safeguards and brutality we went through. It has been so strung out, that we just continue to get worse. My partner is also suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. He is a shell. It destroys me inside to watch him like this, but we are helpless.
Other church goers, volunteers, staff and family in our region continue to suffer bullying and harassment, more grievance procedures, further isolation, lies, so many lies are being told and people are walking out, yet those responsible are sill in post. It is the most disgusting set of events I have ever been witness too. My health, my partners, my relapse my suicides, all as a result of one woman's sick desire for power and control. A bully, at the very least, as we now believe, left in charge of good, God fearing, dedicated people.
Lack of care. Peoples lives at risk, disregard for human dignity and contempt for homosexuals, mental illness and those more vulnerable.
YES THIS IS THE CHURCH, The church I loved and devoted my life too, and for what? A bully to be allowed to run riot over my life!
This is me today, broken, ill, bullied and vulnerable!
Reflections - 11 November 2017
The story above was based on my life; it was written using different names and removing any references to Oxfam, the organisation I was working for at the time. In this update today, I don't want to go over the adaptation above. I have spoken about my experiences many times before. What I want to discuss is the reasons for changing names and writing in the way I have. Today I am quite open about the distasteful nature of Oxfam, what they did to me and others, and will openly discuss the difficulties I faced. Two years ago, things were very different. I was in the middle of a process to force my ex boss Veronica Raymond and my employer Oxfam, to admit their role in a string of bullying allegations. I was unable to mention names publicly and could not discuss issues with anyone, let alone publish my thoughts on an online blog.
Today I write under the pseudonym Luke Martin-Jones, which is how many people know me in Gran Alacant. Before I left for Spain, Darrell and I made the decision, not to use our real names online, after what happened to us. Writing under a pseudonym allows me to write freely about mine and Darrell's time at Oxfam, making references to those responsible for bullying and cover up. It is common knowledge that both Darrell and I worked for the biggest charity in the World, suffering discrimination, intimidation, lies, attacks and cover ups by those at the top of the charity tree. Both of us went through a process, to try and bring the perpetrators of these dreadful acts to justice; in fact we were actively encouraged to do so. Our determination and that of others, who also suffered, fell on deaf ears and Oxfam covered up what happened to all of us, closing ranks and protecting the bullies.
In the end, Darrell signed a compromise agreement, which prevented him from talking about what happened. Oxfam had a lot to hide and this was their way of trying to protect themselves. I signed no such agreement, preferring to write about my experiences, choosing my principals over money. As a writer I believe in the words I write, I don't lie or embellish the truth, I tell a story about what really happened; using my ordeal, as a way of helping others get through their own difficulties; helping those in greatest need is important for me now. Oxfam refused to protect its staff and volunteers; I want to do my best, to help those, especially from the Oxfam ranks, who are still suffering abuses, everyday!
My name is Darren Vranjes formally Light, who just happens to write under the name, Luke Martin-Jones, as the Real Truth Blogger. A pseudonym is the perfect way of expressing myself, without it reflecting on words you may have written, under another name in the past. My pen name, allows me to write about my life in 'Spanish Views,' without cross referencing other published writing in the UK. I am able to express my feelings without fear of tainting previous articles, blogs and stories. Writing under the name Luke Martin-Jones, allowed me to start my writing career from the beginning again, putting all other expression to one side.
The decision to write under an assumed name, was born from adverse times, giving me the freedom to express thoughts without the fear of reprisals. Today, I am happy for people to call me Luke, Darren or whatever they like, it makes no difference to me. I will continue to write under the name Luke, because that is how my readers know me in Spain. Like the entry above, from 24 November 2015, there will always be times, where one has to use discretion, my pseudonym Luke, is the 'get out clause' which allows me to fully detail and document arduous times, whilst writing my newest blog, 'Spanish Views!'
46 year old Expat, writer and columnist, living and working in Gran Alacant on the Costa Blanca.