Last night something amazing and unexpected happened.

We won an award! Our very first award.

We were invited to showcase our art at the Woohoo Achievement Evening and were more than excited about that. Such an incredible opportunity to showcase our photography to an audience of incredibly talented and successful business people.

Then, all of a sudden these words were read out in the category of A Dream Achiever – 2017, “Whatever she sets her mind to, I believe Toula could achieve it. She is caring for her mum who has dementia and remains so positive in life. Toula has changed her career, written books and developed amazingly as a photographic artist. She has recently been recognised by Saatchi Art and I believe she will become a widely acclaimed artist as she sets out to be. It’s a pleasure to collaborate with Toula. I really do admire her positive outlook on life and how socially adaptable she is. She has great ideas and is inspiring to be around. She definitely is a ‘Dream Achiever’ in my world.”

All nominations were anonymous so even more exciting and humbling! You just never know who is watching!


If you would like to what all the Woohoo is about, click here: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheWildWestArtStore



The Boathouse

I had that sinking feeling in my stomach as we set off from my friend’s home – where we are cat and flat sitting – to head off into the Kent countryside. I’d left my trusty Nikon at home and only had my very old iPhone 4 to snap a pic or two and could tell I was going to be filled with regret in the not too distant future.

A few weeks ago when last visiting, we headed to Whitstable for the day and enjoyed fresh oysters and a walk along the coast. This time, however, we were after something greener.

Our first stop was going to be Royal Tunbridge Wells – but as we got there we realised that it wasn’t what we were looking for, even as a breakfast stop, so continued on to the nearest National Trust property only 11 miles away: Scotney Castle.

After a false-start, when Google Maps took us down a very private road towards goodness only knows where, we turned around and found our way to our chosen destination…and goodness me what a destination it is!

The main house gives away nothing of the fairytale magic that awaits visitors along the path. We did the obligatory wandering around with the laminated info – enjoyed the house – and then sat in the sun at the cafe delaying the absolute gratification that was yet to come.

It wasn’t our fault – we just didn’t know.

Eventually, we set off down the path and literally stopped in our tracks. There it was – the castle. A Medieval ruin so magical that it could literally have been designed as the film set for the latest Beauty & The Beast. I almost expected Emma Watson to come singing out of the door as Kevin Kline unhitched his wagon and set off into the distance.

The wisteria and jasmine covered building is just perfect in all of its decay. The empty window frames welcomed in a view of the bluest sky I have ever seen and the creaking warped wooden staircase sang of whispered secrets, in tones only audible to the electric blue darting dragonflies hovering all around.

To get to the castle, a moat has to be breeched and it certainly does delay your progress. You cannot help but stop and wonder at the fairytale scene unfolding before you. The water is covered in blooming lily pads and waterlilies with red-finned silver fish swimming joyfully in the dappled sunlight.

Usually, faced with such untold beauty, I would have the viewfinder of my camera attached to my eye and would be capturing every stunning view. Today, however, with a heavy heart I fumbled in my handbag for my ‘phone and begrudgingly started taking pictures.

Let me confess right here, right now: I have never managed to take a good photo on my ‘phone. Hand me a camera and I just get it. A ‘phone; no.

We started oohing and ahhing as we wandered around the grounds, taking in the castle from every conceivable angle and then all of a sudden, as we meandered down a shady path, we happened upon what I originally decided was Snow White’s House – the one she shared with the Seven Dwarves. You can see why.

As we followed the path around, we could see from amidst the leaves and trees the perfect magical abode from the front.  It was actually a boathouse, seated on the edge of the water with no sign of any Disney characters in the vicinty.

Perhaps Belle was having a tea party?

Poster mock-up

To purchse this image and to view my entire portfolio, please click here:


Let Her Eat Cake

You know that that feeling when you know but you are not sure that the other person knows what you know? That.

Whilst the world around me is being blown up, people are being run down and stabbed by terrorists and everyone is crazily trying to convince everyone else about how to vote in the election, I have been visiting a trauma specialist in the hope that I can undo some of the personal horror that has been inflicted on me.

Two weeks ago whilst having the first actual session of EMDR (rather than just talking talking talking), the session ended with me telling my counsellor through an abundance of tears and shock that I had just realised at almost 50 years of age that I know exactly why I didn’t tell my Mother that her husband had just sexually abused me for the first time when I was 5. It was because I already knew that I was ‘the mother.’

The shock of realising that and then saying it out loud for the first time was palpable in the room.

Of course, it wasn’t necessarily true, it was just how I felt but the revelation has stayed with me sitting heavily and shockingly in my chest, making it hard to breathe in without feeling like I had betrayed my mother by revealing too much. It has also had me on the edge of a tsunami of tears.

I haven’t given in. Much.

In the meantime, I have been worrying about my Mother’s care, or lack thereof, from the health unprofessionals in her care home. On their watch they have allowed her to become significantly overweight and pre-diabetic despite taking blood and weighing her at least once a month.

That’s bad enough but when the private doctor we took Mum to (after the care home manager/ owner suggested we took Mum privately if we didn’t like the GP she was paying for an ‘enhanced’ service) called to inform her of her findings and ask her to put Mum on a diabetic meal plan, she refused point blank.

I saw black.

She says that my Mother despite being in the care home because she has dementia says that she wants cake and sugar all day and therefore should have it.

Yes, that’s right. My Mother who cannot retain the knowledge that she is pre-diabetic is being asked if she wants to eat cake and of course she is saying yes.

The same care home manager/ owner also point blank refused to allow my Mother to see a GP sooner than the regular Wednesday when he visits.

We called to inform the home that Mum was complaining of chest pains – she also had a cough – and as two residents had had chest infections weeks earlier (one died and one was hospitalised), we thought Mum probably had the same.

The manager/ owner said that she would ONLY allow Mum to see the GP sooner if Mum personally came and told her that she had chest pains.

Yes, that’s right.

Of course, we jumped in the car and took Mum to A&E immediately.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that we are now looking for a new care home for Mum. She has been given notice by the manager/ owner who clearly doesn’t want to clear up the mess she has made. As if sweeping the crumbs under the carpet is going to make them magically disappear without any thought for my poor Mum, who is settled there and has made friends over the 30 months she has been resident.

Fortunately, we had already contacted the CQC and social services who are on it. Fortunately they are on it because the manager/ owner contacted them after refusing Mum a GP, to complain about us. How dare we try to impose a healthy diet on Mum when Mum says she wants cake and sugar?

Oh, how we laughed. Not.

The social worker visited Mum to assess her capacity and decided (obviously) that Mum does not have the capacity to make the decision because she cannot remember the health implications of her choices. When reminded, Mum is horrified to learn that the care home have been giving her cake and sugar when they know it is making her ill.

Obviously. You’d have to be really demented not to be horrified.

It took a week for the social worker to call me and let me know her findings. I had been waiting with baited breath wondering whether the care home manager/ owner would be vindicated or we would be villified.

“Your Mother understands everything fully but cannot retain the information. Therefore I have found her not to have capacity in this instance. She said that she totally trusts your judgment and that you are allowed to speak on her behalf. She says you are her Mother-Daughter.”

I knew it.

Being right doesn’t always feel good. Knowing from your earliest consciousness, before even being old enough to go to school, that you are the only responsible adult in the house is the heaviest burden to bear.

Never ever knowing security in it’s most basic form – that of being a care-free child in a home where you are certain that your safety and all of your worries are being held by your parent – is not something you grow out of. It’s something you grow into. The more life happens, the more you sink into the quicksand of terror, seeing all obstacles and issues through the eyes and emotions of a child. A child who had to think on her feet and deal with adulting whilst only a baby herself.

Just look at any pre-schooler that you know and wonder how they would cope.

It’s no picnic. Not all of us can have our cake and eat it.

I am my Mother’s-Daughter-Mother.


To read other posts in this series, please see: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story-surviving-childhood-sexual-abuse/