Pink As The Bing On Your Cherry

Your wish has been answered! I know that you are really busy and that the impending Holiday Season is looming ever closer, filling you with dread and foreboding. “How on earth am I supposed to do my gift buying when there literally are not enough hours in the day?”

I also know that you would really like to get everyone the perfect gift – a well thought out gesture – as the giving is part of the fun – and would like to maintain some sort of balance in your bank account as partying over the Holidays is the another part of the fun. In fact, it IS the fun.

Fear not – here is the first in our weekly The Sultans of Swag™ Holiday Gift Guide – Pink Edition and we have broken it down by price to make life that much easier for you – Up To £5, Up to £10, Up To £20 and Up To £50. There’s nothing here that will break the bank and best of all items are made to order especially for you!

Here are our curated #Giftsforhim: son, brother, father, grandfather, cousin, uncle, boyfriend, husband, friend, colleague, boss and #Giftsforher: daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, cousin, aunt, girlfriend, wife, friend, colleague, boss

Up To £5:

KEYRINGS – A super glossy and sturdy wooden keyring with a bold and unique design. Each keyring is handmade to order and you can choose from more than 200 images and only £4.50 (+P&P)

Keyrings_TotalSet

Up To £10:

Mugs – each 11oz ceramic coffee/ tea mug is made to order and will feature the design of your choice from the 100’s available. Some mugs can also be personalised and customised (as below): name, background colours and colour of cat. Each mug is £10 (+P&P)

 

Pocket Mirrors: these 3″/ 76mm mirrors are perfect for your handbag, pocket, desk-drawer or for travelling and are only £6.50 (+P&P)

 

Up to £20:

Gift Boxed Cufflinks: add some style and individuality to work wear or for a special occasion with these made to order accessories. There are over 200 designs to choose from as the image can be chosen from most of the images available. Only £15 (+P&P)

Fine Art Photographic Wall Art Prints: a vast selection of unframed signed art works, printed to order, starting at only £20 for a 5″ x7″ print (+P&P) – and go right up to 20″ x30″ (or larger and on aluminium, if custom ordered).

 

Up To £50:

Luxury Square Linen Throw Cushions (in 3 sizes and price points) made to order especially for you – just choose your design. Starting at £32 (+P&P) and available in 12 x 12, 18 x 18 and 22 x 22.

Really hope our gift guide has inspired you and made gift shopping easier.

The Sultans of Swag™ help you stamp your personality on your home with inspirational home accessories that create a home as unique as you are.

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The Truth Is Always The Truth

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It’s lunchtime.

My husband just called to ask me how my day is going.

“I’m bored,” I said.

“Why don’t you go for a walk?” he said.

“I don’t like going out,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

He does know. I guess the suggestion that I might want to go for a walk is a reasonable one but the thing is, you see, I am afraid. Not always but often.

I’d truly love to go for a walk but after suffering for years at the hands of a paedophile, the resulting PTSD makes all sorts of ‘normal’ become abnormal. I am afraid that if I go out, I may never come back. I may be attacked. Or worse. If I go out, the safety of the four walls in which I am imprisoning myself may no longer be as safe as I currently consider them to be. Someone might break in and be waiting for me to return to attack me. Or worse.

No one really gets to hear what it is like for those of us who have been abused as children (and possibly for those abused as adults, too), after the fact.

This morning I have read the comments from the public on two stories in the national British press. One is about Sir Clement Freud – after a documentary was shown alleging that he was a child abuser, last night. The other story is about the CPS no longer pursuing Sir Cliff Richard for similarly alleged offences.

Many of the comments – in fact, the majority of the comments state that if there was any truth to the allegations of sexual abuse, why would those coming forward all these years later not have said something earlier. They think that they are being clever in making those comments. That the date when you speak up in relation to the events taking place has some kind of relevance to the truth of the allegations.

It does not.

The truth is always the truth.

A woman helpfully pointed out that she, having being abused as an adult, would have said something as a child, as if that proves the point. She’s an idiot and an unhelpful one at that.

None of us knows what WE would do in ANY circumstances until it happens to us. An adult cannot possibly know what they would have done as a child because they are no longer a child.

Furthermore, the children who are most commonly abused are those whose security network is flawed. They are in care. They are from broken families. Somewhere behind the scenes there is dysfunction and an abuser can smell it a mile off.

The abuser makes small moves to gauge the response of the child and very quickly learns that the child does not have the wherewithal or the self esteem or even the ability due to lack of age and experience to respond like an adult would.

To assume that someone who speaks up so many years later is only doing so for compensation (yes, another bright spark made that suggestion) is ridiculous and unhelpful.

Firstly, you have no idea whatsoever whether the person in question did ever speak up and what the result of that confession was. Just because you are only hearing about it now, does not mean that those words have only just been uttered.

I can only speak for myself when I tell you that I spoke up at the age of 14. Nine long and horrific years after the abuse first started. My mother didn’t even look at me, turned her back and continued to clean the bath whilst snapping this question at me: “Are you prepared to stand up in court and say that?”

Understand this: my body was 14 years old. My emotions in many ways were nowhere close to my physical age. A great deal of me was stuck at the age of 5, the age I was when he first put his filthy hands on me. Some of me was mentally many years older than my physical age as my innocence had been taken from me before I even knew how to say the word. My fears were so long held that I behave, even now in my middle years, like a fragile old lady at times worrying constantly about my survival and at other times like a little girl.

That’s what it comes down to ultimately. Our fear of survival or lack thereof. PTSD. We don’t speak up because we don’t believe that we will be heard, because we are afraid of being the one to blame, because we don’t want to give up the only card we have that we foolishly think is going to win us the hand.

Telling and not being believed or heard means, we think in our naive childish brains, that it will get worse because there is now nothing for them to fear.

It will get worse anyway.

What if you are heard and believed? Then what? Well, the police may be called and you will have to tell them in all sorts of gruesome detail what has happened to you. Tell them about things that you just do not have the vocabulary for or the ability to put your shame aside for so that you can tell a stranger what you yourself have tried so hard not to attach to. Saying the words out loud means that you have to think about what has happened to you. You have to picture and relive those terrifying and despicable moments. You will also feel responsible for the ensuing drama, stress and most likely chasm in your family.

No one wants that.

I told my mother at 14 and was ignored.

I told a female Police Detective when I was 26 what had happened after being sexually assaulted in the street by a stranger. The CPS in their wisdom said that after only 6 years since the last assault (assaults that went on for 15 years) that too many years had elapsed and it would be my word against his so they wouldn’t bother pursuing it.

My abuser died on 04/12/2014. Since then I have made my abuse public. Friends I have known for decades now know my ‘secret.’ Except you see, it was never a secret. I just didn’t talk about it with everyone because there are so many people who have absolutely no comprehension of how to respond.

Someone who was once very close to me said that they couldn’t understand why, when I was 16, I still let the abuse happen. No, they really did ask that!

I tried, whilst fighting guilt, shame, fear and utter disbelief to explain that I had never allowed the abuse to happen. Never, not once since it started at the age of 5.

At 16, I was out of my family home more than I was ever in it. I went to friends’ houses after school, I stayed with them on weekends and eventually many week nights. I went nightclubbing and if I ever went home, I crept in at 4, 5 and sometimes even after 6 in the morning – just long enough to change into my school uniform and pack my bags for the next day of school.

When my step-monster sidled into my room, or silently opened the bathroom door from the outside, I fought. I screamed. I made myself as small as possible curling myself into a ball so that he couldn’t access those parts of me that he wanted to touch. He would laugh. He thought it was funny.

Not ever, never did I allow him to abuse me.

When you read a story in the paper, or watch it on television, when someone is telling you, finally after all of those years that they were abused by someone, do not dismiss their claims on the basis that a great deal of time has elapsed. For many, it will never be the right time. Some will go to their graves with their secrets held deep inside them.

What I am trying to say is that it’s none of your damned business anyway.

The truth is always the truth.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/

RIP Margaret Forster

I am incredibly saddened by the death of one of my favourite authors, Margaret Forster.

What an incredible writer with a talent to see right into the heart of her characters, many of which were real life people, including her own family.

In fact, one of the books I have read over and over is her ‘Lady’s Maid,’ the story of the poet Elizabeth Barratt Browning told through the eyes of her maid. Storytelling at it’s absolute finest.

Rest In Peace Margaret Forster.

Lady’s Maid – Margaret Forster

The Four Walls Of My Mind

Due to an ‘interesting’ childhood, I have PTSD.

In fact, to be more specific, I have c-PTSD (c=complex) and for quite sometime had no idea. Unfortunately, neither did anybody else and so in order to feel ‘better,’ I took myself off to various counsellors in the hope that they would magically fix me.

No magic took place.

Instead, those people with qualifications in psychology and psychotherapy made matters far worse. Rather than understand my textbook PTSD symptoms and provide appropriate treatment for it, or refer me to someone else who could help, they instead asked me to talk, in detail, repeatedly about the situations that had caused the PTSD in the first place.

In other words, for years and with a number of different ‘therapists,’ I was reliving over and over again the worst possible experiences of my life contributing enormously to my PTSD.

The Four Walls of My Mind was something I wrote for one of those therapists to express my feelings about what was going on in my mind as we said our goodbyes during our final session.

My belief at the time was that I was the only person who could change how I felt. Years later, after discovering an incredible therapist who is highly trained in PTSD, I learned that there is appropriate help available that can make all the difference.

The Four Walls of My Mind: 

I stare at the four walls, day in and day out and wonder if I will ever escape. These four walls are the walls of my mind. They are my conscious and my subconscious, my heaven and my hell. Wherever I go and whatever I experience all I am ever aware of are these four great walls. They are walls of infinite height and of the greatest breadth and I know that however hard I try I’ll never be able to climb over and make my way out into a vast expanse of space. Of freedom.

There is no colour in my life. Although, I am certain that behind my prison walls is an artist’s palette with every hue and shade of all the colours ever created. Those colours are so close that I feel I can smell them. The musty greenness of the ivy clinging and crawling up and up, higher and higher along the outer-side of my walls. The citrus yellow of the lemon sun and the icy-blue freshness of a morning wind and cloudless sky.

The fortress in which I am held prisoner has no sensations. The white hot heat of hell is kept at bay by the cooling spirals of heaven’s gentle exhalations. There are no people to hold and touch.

Each miniscule bubble of thought is released so gently into the atmosphere for fear of bursting one already freed. Stealthily, it wafts up and out, bouncing from one thought too many to another, trying to find a gap in which to rest it’s weary soul knowing that any moment now it will have a battle on it’s hands. Does it give in to those stronger spheres of heavier notion or does it use those bigger ideas to lean on and rest, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to launch itself higher?

My non-existent taste buds have been worn away with eating abrasive phrases and hosting an ever sharpening tongue. I have no taste for life or life for me. Life’s menu, displaying mood dishes of exotic names is tacked with a rusty nail onto the outside of my encasement, maybe faded and torn by the elements and time, away from my overwhelming hunger.

Redundant, my ears are closed to the sounds of children laughing and dogs barking, the buzzing of bees and the gentle whispering of leaves on trees and the soft caress of a summer’s breeze stroking my skin.

I am blind.  Blind to the joys of life and the strength of pain. I turn my face from the outside world afraid of being seen by those with eyes that seek. Cowardly, I hide from those who can barely make out a shadow or an outline of reality and responsibility, knowing that they will see me clearly for what I am.

I am ashamed that I have lead you to believe that the walls of my creation are beyond escape. Please forgive me. They are high, towering way beyond the stratosphere and they are wide encompassing my world. But the bricks from which they are made up are nothing more than the worlds which they surround: my conscious and my subconscious, my heaven and my hell. With one determined kick I could raze this flimsy yet invincible barrier to the ground.

I stare at the four walls, day in and day out and wonder if I will ever escape and know that if I really wanted to I could carve a doorway in one wall and windows in the others, giving myself the choice little by little of seeing more, feeling more, living more and one day when I have enough courage, joining the more enlightened of you somewhere out there along the paths of destiny.

Copyright © 1994 Toula Mavridou-Messer 
All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright owners.

Mortal End: Hansel & Gretel Meets Sweeney Todd

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Here’s something I wrote a while back to promote Mortal End. It explains all about the book.

“I have written a book: 

Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery. 

Hansel & Gretel meets Sweeney Todd. 

Whilst. 

A male Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple-type

 Saves the day. 

It’s an adult fairytale. 

A murder mystery. 

A whodunnit. 

It’s really quite fabulous. 

It has all 5 star Amazon reviews. 

And celebrity supporters.

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It’s twisted. 

And macabre

Grisly. 

Fantastical. 

Humourous. 

In a British literary way. 

Y’know, like Dickens. 

Or Victorian Gothic horror. 

Larger than life. 

With soul. 

Dark. 

With bright spots. 

The characters are writ large. 

Albeit physically small. 

The world is imaginary. 

Albeit the horror is real. 

Missing children. 

Bodies in toffee. 

Bogymen. 

Barons. 

Woodcutters. 

And slashers. 

A Rector named Ænus 

A grave-digger named Poe. 

Good 

and 

bad.

Hollywood came a-calling. 

Film? 

Animated for children? 

Or, live action for adults? 

FREE with Kindle Unlimited. 

You decide. 

Click the links. 

Buy now. 

Propel us to success one book at a time. 

Now tell your friends. 

I have written a book: 

Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery. “

Serial Killers Help Debut Author Turn Children’s Favorite Grimm Fairytale into Gothic Horror Novel

Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery is the debut novel from author Toula Mavridou-Messer. The story, an adult twist on Grimm’s childhood favorite, “Hansel & Gretel,’ delves deeply into the background of the wicked witch and her desire to eat children.

Many children around the world, when tucked up safely into their beds at night have been read the story of a brother and sister who, after getting lost deep in a wood, end up living in a gingerbread house with a wicked witch, whose only intention is to fatten them up in order to eat them.

For author Toula Mavridou-Messer, the original story only served to leave more questions unanswered than were ever answered and so she embarked on writing her own backstory, a prequel to ‘Hansel & Gretel,’ that gives an incredible insight into the depraved and horrific behaviour of one of folklore’s most terrifying psychopaths.

Researching into true stories of numerous child killers opened Toula’s eyes to how nature versus nuture or indeed vice versa could result in a real life horror and depravity, such as that originally laid out in the fairytale written by the Brothers Grimm.

Rosemary West (one half of notorious UK serial killing husband and wife team) appears to have experienced an absolutely horrific childhood that definitely seems to have had an effect on the terrifying woman that she later became; a woman who ended up sexually abusing one of her own children, later murdered by her husband Fred, whose remains were found beneath their home at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, England.

Couple that with the cold and clinical way in which Amelia Dyer, a Victorian baby farmer disposed of more than 400 children during the course of her ‘career’ and you begin to have more of an understanding of the whys and wherefores of the  terrifying witch’s character in ‘Hansel & Gretel.’

Now all of those children who grew up hearing the story of ‘Hansel & Gretel’ at bedtime can read ‘Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery’ to themselves at night, as they slip between the sheets.

This brand new adult fairytale is filled with mystery and humour, a tantalising sense of suspense, absurd darkness and larger than life characters, making it a perfect read for Halloween.

Synopsis:

“A lightning storm sparks a fire deep in Phooka Wood.

The following morning, Mortal End’s self righteous rector Ænus P. Wordsworth, his sidekick Savant Poe and a motley crew of villagers venture into the wood to see what damage has been done.

To their amazed befuddlement, right in the centre of the seared earth is a giant mound of molten toffee and within it, a selection of human remains.

Ænus P. Wordsworth takes it upon himself to find out who these bones belong to and how they came to be there.  In doing so, he uncovers a horrific tale of murder, incest and cannibalism that spreads throughout the neighbouring villages that surround Phooka Wood.

Their investigation takes them to all corners of their roundabout world; from Mortal End to the oozing Hamlet of Stifle and Little Napoo.  Along their colourful journey, we are introduced to a larger than life cast from Doc Sheare the barber surgeon, Verrye Brutall the handsome woodsman, Beliala Bigswoln the publican’s daughter, Baron Rubigo Bluebeard and Umbra the Bogyman.

Everyone seems to have a secret that they are trying to hide that could give clues to the horror of Phooka Wood. Even Ænus P. Wordsworth has something to hide!”

Why does guilt hang heavy in this village like offal in a stew? What secret has the God-fearing Ænus P. Wordsworth kept so carefully? Where have all the children gone? These and many other questions will be answered when you read Mortal End.

What readers are saying about Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery:

“For those who like their humor black, satirical and with a Gothic twist this is a must read. Tongue in cheek all the way, the book is written in a style that satirizes the very language of Victorian, Gothic horror, paying a backhanded ‘homage’ to Dickens, Poe, Stoker and the Grimm brothers with a large dash of Washington Irving’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and the epic Beowulf, (Grendel’s mother), thrown in. The tale of Hansel and Gretel will never be the same. Gruesomely funny!”

“It’s a smidge of Dickens, shaken but not stirred with “A League of Gentlemen”, sort of starcrossed with a bit of Neil Gaiman, plus a soupcon of Terry Pratchett. And totally and utterly your own!”

“Mortal End is the funniest and most disturbing adult fairytale ever written.”

“My imagination is being flooded with the most enormous canvas of human depravity… and I am finding that it fills me with delight.”

“Despite it’s subject matter it is light-hearted in it’s delivery and the clever way the writer expresses herself is a joy to behold.”

“Love the incredibly clever mind of Toula Mavridou-Messer. Excited to read her next book as well!”

“Love the prose, the most colourful, creepy, characters in their deliciously rancid world.”

“Toula’s imagination knows no bounds. Her characters are original and fascinating and leap off the page. She is a smart writer with the ability to make a story exciting and mysterious and will take your breath away.”

Background: ‘Mortal End: A Simmering Pit Of Jiggery Pokery,’ the debut novel from Toula Mavridou-Messer, was written in the space of three weeks after two car crashes in just one hour. Even the rescue serviceman who came to collect her from the mangled wreckage was hesitant about transporting her, saying, “Things happen in threes, don’t they?”

“It’s a sign,” thought Toula, as those crashes came during the return journey from a residential crime writing course she attended, given by best-selling author Val McDermid. She had been battling a major problem faced by so many would-be authors – that of actually finishing a project and then doing something with it.

Facing death head on seems to have been the antidote, although not necessarily recommended as a remedy for all.  Every time Toula was faced with either a blank page or the option of walking away from the type-writer, she remembered that she had been spared a fate worse than death…or in fact, death and that small fact kept her chained to her desk.

Fortunately she saw the funny side and hopefully so will you when you read ‘Mortal End: A Simmering Pit Of Jiggery Pokery,’ available from Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s and most other good online book retailers.