Monthly Archives: January 2013

Murder up close and personal

Death came visiting on Jan 13, he reached out his clawing grasping diremptive hand and took my friend. Robyn was a mother, daughter and friend to many. Robyn was a foster child in our care many years ago, Robyn called me dad.  Sunday Jan 13 Robyn was murdered in her home.  I know who it was and the manner of her death but this is all sub judice and largely irrelevant beyond the fact that she was murdered.  Robyn Alma Grace was 43.

Robyn had her struggles in life, many disappointments and trials but like many of us her needs were simple, she wanted to love and be loved.  I remember her as an extremely lively young woman with a mouth that was shall we say quick to invective and quick to laughter as well.  She was a fiery independent woman, hard working and caring.

Robyn was one of many young people who came through our home and the hostel and family home we ran.  I read about Robyn’s murder at knew that Robyn lived in Picton but it didn’t register for me as I thought Robyn was younger, although on reflection I think that I was in denial.  I didn’t check it out I didn’t want to know.  On the following Thursday I picked up a paper and there it was her full name and then there was no denial.  The shock and horror of the matter started to settle in.  I haven’t seen Robyn for 25 years however last year Robyn popped back into my life through facebook.

Robyn was having difficulty, she had a growth on her face and it wasn’t been taken seriously.  I assisted Robyn in being taken seriously.  It turned out that Robyn had melanoma.  I organised support for her all from a distance as we live some distance apart 620 km to be exact.  I have to admit that Robyn was very needy and that it suited me to have the distance as Robyn had lost none of her intensity over the years and the best I could do was to reach out through my networks.

I experienced this death almost as a voyeur, I realised that it had affected me much more than what I thought.  I have experienced violent death before and quite horrific as well but I was not connected to the victims. This connection has made it personal and I am unable to stand apart from it so I choose to move through it.

Robyn experienced mental illness and her murderers did as well.  Mental illness is so difficult to deal with.  Finding a balance between individual freedom and societal responsibility.  I used to conduct a non denominational service in a large Mental Institution nearly thirty years ago.  I used to preach forgiveness once a month regular as clockwork.  Particularly forgiveness of self, however there are some people whose mental illness is beyond anything that they can do about it and it is with these people that we do not do very well in New Zealand.

Mental health providers are underfunded and overworked and the science of saying who is dangerous is very inexact however I think we err far too often on the side of the individual rather than on the side of a safe society.  We have to decide however if we want a liberal society then we need to spend the money to monitor and help those with mental illness who pose a potential threat far more intensively.  We also need to ensure that as individuals we report behaviours that are concerning and those who work in mental health need to get with the programme and lose their mantle of the expert and need to listen to community concerns about people with much more sincerity.  I have experience in trying to get people help and it is a minefield of people trying to pass the buck and professionals who are either too jaded too liberal or so enamoured with their own misguided infallibility that their judgement is clouded to say the least. Underfunding exaggerates the problem and often families are left to deal with situations way beyond their level of ability in the guise of community care. With tragic outcomes.

In the case of Robyn’s murder there will be no doubt an examination of the role of the mental health providers in the interaction with her murderers, that is appropriate but it is too damn late for Robyn! We need to demand a more accountable better funded and more responsive service to those who live with mental illness and the society that they live in.

Go free my friend Robyn no more pain and suffering for you my amigo!



Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey

An interesting title, I was having a conversation tonight with some one about the very same book.  I have read a little of the book and found its literary value to be rather limited.  Frankly the craft that went into writing this is somewhat limited, however before the howls of protest erupt I have (as usual ) something to say.

Fifty shades of grey has merit for one particular reason that is it has got people talking, on this occasion it is about sex.  There is a lot of professional jealousy about this book and certainly the kinds of numbers that it is generating that will attract attention but it is the talking that should garner the attention.  Although there is a huge increase in openness in society with many things that used to be sacrosanct considered open slather there seems to be from where I sit a paucity of real communication, honest to goodness sit down and talk about it.  Especially within relationships.

One of the most common claims I here is that he / she never talks to me or does not communicate.   When it comes to sex I think we are certainly reticent about discussing the matter certainly with our partners and most likely it is men who are the most reticent.  I have heard a number of Woman say I wish my husband/ partner would read this book.   I don’t think there are necessarily a lot of Woman who secretly desire their partner to invest in a riding crop and hand cuffs, perhaps there are but it really doesn’t matter, it would seem that there is considerable dissatisfaction in many bedrooms around the world.

Now I make no claim to expertise around these matters apart from what I know about communication.  You see it is real intimacy in action when this kind of communication can occur where two people can talk openly and freely about such a personal subject.   To talk about sex within a relationship (and I really mean an ongoing discussion) is really risky for many people however if one can talk about these issues which are so highly sensitive then it really bodes well for those other really important discussions about life and love.  Now I am not going to bang on about sex, I shall crack the whip and make my points.

The conversations that people are having about Fifty Shades of Grey are the kinds of conversations we need to be having about a lot of things, as the book has made mainstream something considered very alternative imagine the possibilities if we could main stream conversations about violence, poverty, abuse, obesity and mental illness.  We have seen some of those conversations like child poverty begin to emerge but putting milk into schools is not the answer.  It is a short term fix for kids right now which is great but a whole other conversation needs to be had.

The Million for a Million campaign is another one of those subjects that needs to become a household conversation.  I have written before how the difficulty of such a campaign is to gain real traction in the suburbs where people just want to make enough to pay the rent and to fill bellies.  We are in the middle of an obesity epidemic and no one wants to talk about it.   What is the answer?  Fifty shades of fat?  I think there are some sacred cows that need to be slain in order for obesity to be taken seriously.  I have talked about some of these things before so sorry if it sounds boring but here it is. I have yet to met an obese person who is really happy with their obesity.  They will terll you they are use words like I am happy with me and will brook no discussion on the subject. Hah is all I say to that.

Just a straw man fallacy. l if I am happy as a fat person then you have no right to suggest that I may be unhealthy and that perhaps underneath that existence I may be unhappy.  I know this because I have lived it and still do.  I have gone backwards over the last 4 months, I can blame all sorts of things but the simple truth is I took my eye off the ball and forgot the golden rule, calories in versus calories out.  The difference is that I tell myself and others the truth and am back on the exercise track.  Am I happy to see those kilos again. No way, not interested, will I ignore it nope I will confront it, publically in a forum like this as well.  You may ask why and I will tell you this.

Such a conversation normalises struggle and tells the truth about obesity, most clinically obsese people I have met are not happy!  End of story, I wasn’t and I consider my self pretty normal ( many may argue otherwise) .  As we enter into a new year I want to go back briefly over my blogs and revisit a few issues and hopefully will start some conversations that will lead to change for people.

Live, laugh and love.