CategoryNews & Entertainment

At break in point

Christmas is an amazing time of year for most people, unless you are an independent retailer and then its a stressful nightmare.

Financially the Christmas period is a juggling game of cash flow, with goods arriving in August which may not start to sell until late November/December. That’s at least three months of stressful bills with few sales until a few weeks before Christmas, when it all kicks off.

It is a hectic and stressful mixture of predicting pre-ordered stock that you hope to sell, mixed in with massive overheads such as business rates, utility bills, wages etc. It’s that age old saying “If you’ve not got it, then you can’t sell it.” On top of all that financial stress, you have the added stress of sending out goods to people on tight deadlines hoping that they don’t get lost in the postal network and hoping customers don’t pretend that they haven’t had the goods when they have. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve caught people out on fraud!

It is truly a fine art balancing everything and still offering the best customer service you can, whilst keeping a roof over your businesses head!

Well it’s the Thursday before Christmas, December the 20th, and I’m sat feeling like death on the sofa after coming home an hour early from work. Long days and nights working are taking their toll on me. I’ve a low immune system and I’m having treatment tomorrow and god, don’t I know I need it. Two other staff members have had a day off each due to illness, but I work for myself so taking a day off work isn’t an option, especially at Christmas. So I carry on the best I can covering their job roles and my own.

Suddenly the door bell rings and its my friend holding out a packet of cough sweets. I’m thankful as now someone’s in to make me tea, but mustering up the energy to become sociable is harder than I think. Like a vegetable I’m sat there unable to do much as Tams, my friend, runs round fetching me tablets, food and drink – my husbands gone to Milton Keynes snowboarding with the staff and team which when you are this ill, is a blessing as I just wanted to die quietly on the sofa.

We nattered, but Tam’s knew I was slowly dying from a cold and kept saying she’d leave. I had treatment in the morning in Oxford which I had to get up early for, and had zero energy. I remember sat wondering how I was going to even manage getting up in the morning at that point.

Unfortunately we hadn’t sat down and nattered just the two of us in months, so had lots to talk about, but I was extremely concerned that she was going to catch this cold from me, so didn’t want her to stay long. We’ve said goodbye 5 times by this point, but one of us would say something which would keep us chatting a bit longer. I said that night there was a reason for her spontaneously coming round.

Suddenly my phone rings, my home one. We both looked shocked as Tam’s knew it would be one of two people calling; My mother or our burglar alarm company. Looking at the time and knowing I was ill, the likeliness of it being my mother was slim. I answered the phone and asked them to repeat who they were.

I looked shocked, as I stood up reaching for my jacket and keys. “A sensors gone off, I need to go.” Tams instantly said she would come. Half of me thought its one sensor, not two, so it’s most likely a box which has fallen in the warehouse. I know I’m going to have to drive fast and safe because its wet. I make sure she’s got her seatbelt on for the ride.

It wasn’t long before some boy racer was at the side of me trying to race me. I decided to go another route as I didn’t want to cause him to have an accident, let alone me.

We joke that its going to be a box fallen over and that I’m going to want to kill someone on Friday morning, but in the back of my head I think this is going to be a real call, as I wasn’t on the phone long enough to know if two sensors had tripped.

We get closer to the warehouse and I ask Tams to look, as we drive past a car park which is behind our warehouse. There’s a small silver car driving around – looks like a Vauxhall Corsa, the old shape one. It could be nothing, but it could be something?

We drove into our warehouse car park, my eyes adjusted, I couldn’t work out what I was seeing as it was raining but shouted to Tam’s to call the police. My hand firmly on the horn as I wanted to scare anyone out from inside the wrecked building, but no one came.

The warehouse shutters were ruined. I couldn’t work out what had happened. At first I thought we had been ram raided but later on discovered that 3 men had spent about 2 hours in the rain ripping the shutters apart on and off. Was it worth it for them? Well for about £4k’s worth of damage they took less than £100 in total, which divided by three people wasn’t really worth all that effort?

Even the kids at the skate park knew that most people pay by card. What stupid idiot thought that it was worth spending two hours in the freezing cold and rain for the till float?!

Most of the items in our shop are £100, so no one comes in with much cash, its just that simple! Plus all cash is secured off site in the bank!

We sat for a couple of minutes in the car calling friends and family over to help, while we waited for the police. Two friends even kindly left the Cotswolds to come to my rescue. To them I will be eternally in their debt.

In just minutes the police arrived closely followed by the police dog – Swindon police were amazing.

I sat there thinking I’d rather go in first than a police dog or officer – I wouldn’t want anyone or anything getting hurt especially a dog for our shop! A very beautiful, bouncy happy German Shepherd came out. The only thing he found was a tennis ball thankfully belonging to our shop dog Abbie. The men had left only minutes before I had arrived we later saw on CCTV.

I scrambled though the wreckage of our shop front and into the office then shop and broke down in tears. The adrenaline left my body and the shock hit.

I can’t tell you how crushed I felt looking at all the damage. 18 years of hard work making ATBShop into something our family could be proud of in ruins; Skate park and two shops for all to enjoy, smashed up in a matter of hours, made everything we had ever achieved feel worthless. I remember crying out “Its not worth it any more” as I covered my face with my hands feeling so overwhelmed. Tears rushed down my face. I was in pain, but it wasn’t physical. My heart broken. This building called ATBShop is our life’s work, practically our home and someone wanted to take that from us for their selfish greed of not wanting to work.

Standing there wet and cold from the rain, tired and very ill I felt like I couldn’t go on. Stood in a room full of people I felt so alone.

These vile humans will never know the extent of damage they have caused for the pitiful amount that they stole. Not just the £4k’s worth of shop front they’ve smashed and destroyed, £100 till they took and smashed over the floor and cash float they stole, but the fact that I didn’t get my treatment that week from Oxford. That I’m still so ill from being stood in the cold and rain I’m amazed I’ve not got pneumonia for the 12th time. The phycological damage of being on edge from the break in. They ruined our family’s Christmas. It was already hard enough drawing the energy to celebrate Christmas with a family member terminally ill, but this just pushed us into a worse fragile state.

These pathetic individuals are the lowest life form in my books; Stealing from a small family run business, who’s main aim is to only do good, keep children off the streets and into active sports. If you knew our family then you will know we are the kindest people you’ll ever meet and would literally do anything for anyone.

Thankfully we have insurance to cover this damage which will cost us approximately £4k, but this could have cost us our business and our staff their jobs if we weren’t insured, all because of a couple of people wanted to steal rather than to work. Totally disgusting and extremely callous.

It wasn’t long before everyone had raced over to our aid. I don’t have friends… I have super heros. My life long friends Ant and Sam had travelled an hour from the Cotswolds to help. I told them I’d be ok, but they said that they would come and help as I was on my own with Tams and the police. My pensioner parents had left their beds in the dead of night to come in, and the boys left the snowdome to come back and try to piece back together what was our beautiful shop front.

Even my wonderful neighbours walked our dog and tucked her in for us that night, as I had to leave Abbie at home wanting to keep her safe.

Felling hurt, crushed and ill, we dusted ourselves down and picked ourselves back up and fought back to open for midday the next day. It was hard as I was working on less than two hours sleep by the time we got back home and had to wake back up to get in for work. I have to say I hardly slept for those two hours and spent the day spontaneously crying which is very tiring .

I had to keep telling myself that yes there are some terrible people out there, but there’s also some truly amazing people who are out there, who have supported us.

Lots of people keep asking how they can help us. All we will say is please come in and support us by shopping with us. Buy a coffee from us, use our skate park, buy your next scooter or skate board from us. Pay and have your skis or snowboard serviced, just use us. Whether you snowboard, kite, mountain board, scooter, skate, longboard, surf, or wakeboard rider, then pop in and support us – its that simple.

We don’t need a go fund me page or crowd funding account, we just need people to come in and use us and we will be fine and will fight back so this doesn’t happen again. We have fitted more sensors and added even better CCTV and monitoring sensors so this won’t happen again but it was surviving the emotional stress that was the hardest and one that I still won’t get over.

Justice for Grenfell, how we helped.

Only a handful of you will know that I have a second line of work. When I’m not looking after and running a skate park and a successful online store, I’m a presenter. My early career in radio, scraping an existence and a living finally blossomed into well paid presenting work in the corporate world. The majority of my presenting work now comes from London and the surrounding area. I love London, not just because of its plentiful work, but also because of the people who live there. I have a mixture of very wealthy and very humble friends in this city, and the one thing that unites them all is the diversity; It’s good to be different.

I love how everyone is accepted and anything goes. You’d walk down the street thinking something looked totally normal, when in fact if you had that same look of fashion, specialised shop, or event going on in another town, or city then it just wouldn’t work.

On Tuesday the 13th of June I had work in London. It was one of the hottest days of the year and I’d stayed over with one of my closest friends. Andy, or my Hertfordshire husband, as he’s also referred to on the count that I used to stay with him more than my actual husband, had put me up for the night. We boarded the train and raced into London. An 8am start in Trafalgar was waiting for me. The day was long and a massive success for our client. After work, Andy collected me from my hotel where I had been working, and we set about finding dinner. Alfresco had to be the tonight’s choice, for the weather was too good to do anything else. Somehow I lost all track of time and found myself driving back home to Wiltshire at 1am, still buzzing off my London experience. London had been too kind and I didn’t want to leave.

The next day a very sleep Diana was greeted with a huge mug of coffee in bed. My wonderful husband knew just how to wake me – this was to be a two-sugar day for sure. Scrolling through Instagram I saw a post by George Clark (Channel fours Restoration Man, to name just one of his many successful TV shows). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Post, after post of a huge tower block engulfed in flames. This wasn’t a third world country, but London in 2017.

Resembling something out of 9/11 I felt sick as I then started to read the NEWS. Babies being thrown out of windows, people jumping to their death avoiding flames and toxic smoke, families trapped in burning smoked filled rooms, People frantically waving for help from their windows trapped with no way out. This was real life horror. I felt helpless and sick. Like many, I wanted to help and knew I couldn’t. A massive wave of guilt crept over me. I’d had such an amazing time in London while others were suffering. I know it sounds stupid and I wasn’t even close to the fire, but if I had of then I would have been there trying to help. That’s the type of person I am.

So many people sacrificed their lives that night. I read a firemen’s blog from that night. It ripped me apart reading how they had to make split-second decisions on whom and how to save people. If you get the chance please read their story, as it gives you a factual account and insight into how lives were saved that night, and how deadly the condition were fought.

My day just dragged at work as I kept this wave of guilt hanging over me. I decided I needed to do something and with the help from my staff we set up a donation station at the ATBShop Skate Warehouse (our little indoor skate park in Swindon). I urged people to give what they could in the form of clothes, food, and toiletries. I asked people to donate on the official ‘Just Giving” site if they wanted to donate money. I called our extreme sports community via social media asking for help and support and they answered. In fact, the BBC even called to interview ATBShop on our efforts.

Generous families from all walks of life supported our cause. Children’s designer clothes with tags still on, a huge mixture of food, toys still in their boxes, fresh toiletries and bags more of much-needed aid arrived. The news changed explaining that Grenfell Tower had been overwhelmed with donations and wasn’t accepting more aid. Luckily, we had stated from the start anything unwanted would go to the Prospect Hospice in Swindon – another amazing worthwhile cause! I think people just wanted to feel as if they had helped. Like me, they had watched the NEWS and were moved. The giving of these donations almost felt like therapy.

Finally, Saturday evening came, when we were to drive down to London with the collected aid. Our vehicle loaded with more than just emotion, we ventured into London to help support the victims of the fire.

As we drove ever closer to Kensington, through a break in the London skyline, we could see the tower for the first time as we came off at a roundabout near to Kensington. Our Satnav still voicing out directions, and still a good 15 minutes away from the location, we felt numb at the sight.

The grim remains of a charred building seemed to stand almost alone in the London summer red sky. Thinking back now, I wouldn’t have even have recalled if there were any other buildings surrounding Grenfell Tower, as your eyes drew onto this now iconic building, which stood like a burnt out car.

Hollowed out, with its chard remains, the crimson evening sky pierced through the now dark brown tower. A skeleton of the skyline is the only way to describe this building. The beautiful summer dusk light shone where every windowpane once stood, acting as a chilling reminder of nights past. Forget what you’ve seen in the NEWS, nothing could prepare you for this sight.

We parked and started to walk towards the tower. Worlds apart we walked past a mixture of council houses, and houses that we knew would cost millions to live in. It’s reported that flat prices in this area fetch on average £1.3 million, so when you hear Grenfell Tower had over 120 flats inside, your thoughts on how much a private block would fetch on that site sends a chill down your spine. I remembered by husband saying… “Just wait until they demolish that building and put up luxury apartments.” I dumbfounded replied that there would be a massive outcry if that was to ever happen. Stuart then said “They are selling off the NHS at the moment and no one cares. Give it a few years and this will be sold off for private land.” I knew he was right. Government’s are clever like that.

The closer we walked, the more somber the atmosphere became. For such a noisy city, the silence was almost deafening. Voices so quiet and softly spoken were all that you could hear through the heat of this London evening. Missing signs seemed to lead us to the tower – attached to fences, phone boxes, doors, post boxes and photo booths. In fact, there was no space left uncovered. Any surface area an A4 photocopied a piece of paper could be stuck to, there was a photo or a handwritten note attached.

Walking further into North Kensington you could see piles of makeshift shrines laid scattered around the area paying tribute to friends, family, and strangers. Doorways were full of flowers and cards; walkways were lit by candles and decorated with handwritten messages. Mountains of toys piles high in tribute to children lost in the fire just broke my heart. I reached for my husband’s hand – he just held my hand tighter as we walked in closer past the cordoned off police area in front of us. Taped off access only to the surrounding flats prevented us walking any closer in.

We ventured around and onto station walk where masses of people gathered like a congregation on the street. Everyone looked lost; this was a community still in shock wondering around, searching for answers. A man with a drum started to play. A few taps in he would stop. The music just wouldn’t come. There just wasn’t a tone for the sober mood, which shadowed over the street where we all stood like a grey cloud.

I lit a tea light; I offered more to strangers who stood staring in disbelief. It may sound silly, but I had this sense of just being there was helping. This community wanted to know people cared as they grieved and waited for answers. We all came to their side, to show our love and support in the only way we could. It didn’t feel much, but it felt as if it helped.

Suddenly a group of talented children began to play violins. “Near, my God, to me” played flawlessly by these children, who seemed to pull a crowd of lost souls together. Everyone stood together united in grief. Some recorded them on their phones; others rocked their children in their arms. Hearing and watching the children play crusted me. This was the song used in the Titanic film as the last song played before the ship sank. For everyone who stood there watching this was raw emotion finally tuned.

As you walked further in, all walks of life pulled together handing out food and drink from all sides of the road. From biscuits on a tray, to fully cooked hot meals, it was all free to anyone and everyone. Makeshift picnic areas loving laid out on the floor for all. This was a caring community responding to a disaster with a lack of government help.

There were no charity’s branded volunteers, or government officials, just ordinary people piecing a broken community back together the best way they could.

This multicultural, gathering of faith, race, and society saw first hand, was breathtakingly beautiful in light of such a horrendous tragedy. The kindness hit you like a bullet, making you want to hug and thank everyone you saw for their kind efforts.

Reading the walls of comments, half filled with anger and half filled with sorrow, it had everyone thinking about how this fire could have happened in such a developed, sophisticated country? There are just so many factors to take into consideration. This small kitchen fire should have never ended this way.

Firstly was there a fire alarm, and if so was it loud enough and did people hear?

One of my firefighter friends asked how many of us hear a fire alarm when we are out and about and think nothing of it? I know recently I’ve been to the hospital for treatment and have heard an alarm go off several times and thought nothing of it. If you lived in a tower block and heard an alarm would you react and rush out or just think “kids” if it was in the early hours of the morning?

Was it true fire crews couldn’t get close enough to the building? They were there it’s been reported in under 6 minutes from the first call, but many reports explain how fire crews struggled to get onto the site, due to narrow gates and cars badly parked.

We are also discovering that gas pipes, apparently were laid to the entrance of the building and had been reported several times as a safety concern. As a building with only one shared exit and entrance – this does raise serious safety concerns.

What about the “Stay Put Policy”. One thing for sure, we learned nothing from the 6 people who tragically lost their lives in the 2009 fatal fire in Lakanal House, South London – another council run block of flats. This “Stay Put Policy” only works where flats are contained and fire safety is carried out to it’s very best. Yes, it is maybe for the best if a flat is correctly fitted with fire safety doors and the correct amount of “fireline” board – that residents stay in their flats until fire crews can get to them safely and out of a building without any injury. No one wants people hurt trying to escape causing more distraction away from putting out a raging fire. However, badly fitted insulation, and dangerous cladding just gives no one a sporting chance, along with a lack of fire doors and fireline board.

Although there are so many hindering factors to how so many people died from such a small fire, for me the cladding of the building had to be at blame. Every firefighter I know said the same thing. The building fire just spread too quickly – like nothing they’ve ever seen.

It has been widely reported that the fire crews put out the original fire, but somehow the cladding caught and then spread the fire up and outside of the building.

In the first few days’ reports came to light stating that the cladding was 100% safe, despite chunks of burning insulation raining down on Kensington. The cladding, however, had been signed off by a fire expert team, so should have been safe. The focus shifted quickly to how the cladding was fitted. Could too much of a gap be to blamed? All of the corporate companies involved in the 10 million pound refurbishment raced round to pass the blame.

Residents annoyed that they were told cladding designed to help “insulate” the building could now have been the sole reason why so many died. Listening to residents, they felt cheated as the main reason behind the cladding was more for aesthetics, rather than energy saving. Who would, after all, want to overlook a block of 60’s styled run down flats when they’d just paid over a million pounds to live in the area. Kensington council said that the cladding was mainly designed to save residents money on their heating, but if you’d believe that then you’d believe anything.

Angry signs and banners littered the surrounding areas to the tower demanding justice and answers. “Tories have blood on their hands” read one signed. Angry residents asking why a private limited company, who appeared not to care, could be left in charge of so many lives; This is government privatisation at its very worst, and with more privatisation on the Tory horizon, no one stands a chance.

Several blog posts explaining and outlining dangers had been met with threatening legal letters from the private company in charge of Grenfell. KCTMO legal team explained legal action would follow if more slanderous comments were made on social media. I can’t help but hope these people are held accountable and brought to justice in this soon to be very complex legal case of corporate manslaughter. The fact that the former Conservative housing minister, Gavin Barwell apparently delayed a fire safety review for four years on the Grenfell Tower, just adds to the fact that the Conservative party had failed these people over and over.

Did you know a fire sprinkler system would cost just under £140k to install? Yes, you may think that’s a lot of money – but not when you think they had just spent around 10 million on making the building look nicer, you realise that 140k is nothing. After reading up on sprinkler systems, I found that it is very unusual for anyone to die in a building fitted with them, and pretty much unheard of that double figured deaths have accrued. With all this in mind, you have to ask yourself why were they not fitted as standard in large buildings, regardless of age?

Nicolas Paget- Brown, the Conservative council leader, said with all the renovation work being carried out on the building, that residents didn’t want any more disturbances. Yet there is no evidence of any such discussions between the council and the residents apparently. I personally can’t see GAG – Grenfell Action Group, turning down sprinklers after they had been reporting fire concerns since 2013.

Apparently, there’s been no fire report in the last four years even though GAG had expressed concerns that fire equipment was out of date and that fire extinguisher equipment had been condemned and that rubbish was building up in stairwells.

It’s also not well known that a Kensington council amassed 274 million after years of underspending, yet decided to give a £100 refund to all their top rated council tax payers. That massive amount of money could have gone into retrofitting such safety devices, which would have saved lives. This is North Kensington looking after their elite and not their most venerable.

Our drive back home after what felt like a pilgrimage to London left us thinking about everything. There are so many unanswered questions, and the first one being that no one knows to this day how many died in that building. I heard a lady stood “waiting” for news explaining that her sister was in the tower on a baby shower that evening. How many others were at that party? There’s other unconfirmed news that hundreds are still unaccounted for, yet the media said it will be less than 100? A family of five recently turned up unharmed and unaware of all the drama, which they’d caused, but where are the others? Lilly Alan famously ranted to Jon Snow, live on Channel Four NEWS that far more were missing than first thought for; yet the media downplayed the true scale of this horror.

The residents still complained openly during our visit that the media wasn’t giving a fair and balanced account of what happened that night and how many were thought to be dead. The math just isn’t right and the likes of Lilly Allan aren’t having any of it and are publicly standing up for those with no voice.

The media lapped up this NEWS story for days after the fire, twisting and exploiting ever piece of factual evidence to sell papers. Take the fireman’s helmet, which went viral. Everyone’s first thought was that the fireman had written his name on his helmet for identification purposes.

“You know it is not going to be good when you are told to write your name on your helmet before you go in.”

Everyone’s first thoughts were that the firefighters could now be identified from their helmets if things went really bad inside the building, and you know that’s how the papers were going to play it. However, the facts were that around 200 fire persons were needed that day, which was horrendous, and the point the fireman was trying to make – In other words “You know it’s going to be bad if 200 firefighters are here. ” The fact that they had all been asked to write their names on their helmets was so when they were on break they could identify their kit quickly for when they had to go back in. That’s why it was a first name written and not their last name. However, the media dramatised the events, which famously backfired on Twitter.

If the media can make you believe one thing then they can make you believe anything. Newspapers and media groups associated with the Tory party had already been kicked out of Grenfell for poor NEWS coverage by angry residents. You only have to read blogs and social media to get a real feel for how bad the NEWS coverage really was that night and thereafter.

Looking forward, it’s going to be hard to prove commercial manslaughter, and hold those only interested in profit to account. You only have to look at cases such as the Zeebrugge ferry disaster, to realise big companies can get away with literal murder. We must hope that this inquiry doesn’t drag into years, like the Hillsborough disaster. People forget, and the public will lose interest, and those murdered will be forgotten. This has to be acted on and kept in the public eye. So far the residents have complained of very little support – which was so beautifully orchestrated by Tressa May last week. If our very own Prime Mister can’t sort her act out over safety concerns to meet with victims, then what hope do we have?

I did like the meme that followed, where the queen ask Ms May to hold her crown – “She’s going in.” It is nuts to think that Prince William and the Queen can go into Grenfell along with the likes of top celebrity’s and Mr. Corbyn, yet May couldn’t. This Tory government appears to be a disgrace before, and now after the fire.

All we can hope now is that a transparent investigation can take place and that vital lessons can be learned from this disaster. Already fire checks have been carried out on several buildings which are now deemed to be unsafe. Like a ticking time bomb residents across the country have now been warned to evacuate, displacing lives and families. The effects of Grenfell to its victims and potential victims represent something of a war stricken community in its self. We talk about cuts and austerity, but these cuts have cost the country more than just millions its cost lives which you can’t put a price on.

With various politicians now backtracking on huge safety policies and legislation, can we really trust those in power to hold a proper investigation? Only one person has so far resigned over this disaster where many more really should have gone. Only time will tell if justice will prevail.

Thank you for reading my blog. I’ve only skimmed over the huge complexity and touched on parts of significant interest in this disaster because I felt, like many that Grenfell needed a voice. If you to want to help then please keep supporting Grenfell by writing letters to your local MP’s about fire safety so we can get a change in legislation, which can save lives.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Saga

Johnny Depp being accused of domestic violence has got everyone talking. He’s been apart of our life’s for years. He’s entered and infiltrated our homes through DVD box sets, prime time TV and national newspapers. He’s been pictured as a loveable rogue with a kind heart, as his charity work nearly succeeds his acting career. But let’s add some caution here, as we remember that he is not the only kind hearted celebrity to visit hospitals with a dark past.

Many avid Johnny Depp fans rushed out to brand Amber Heard, (his soon to be ex-wife) “Gold Digger” as an initial reaction for accusing Johnny of being anything but nice. With a 23 year age difference between them, she must have been after his money right? I would say no. This pretty model turned actress is worth around 14 million dollars and is quite independent as far as her film career is concerned. She’s more than up and coming, she’s a Hollywood star in her own right.

I believe she is not a Gold Digger, just someone caught up in a whirlwind romance, infused with all the craziness of Hollywood. I mean like you would say no if Johnny Depp invited you out for dinner. He’s most women’s dream date after all.

Us mortals will never know the real goings on behind these Hollywood doors. These A-list celebrity’s live in another world; often an untouchable one as we are about to discover.

The divorce settlement had finally been reached and announced last week. Experts wrongly predicted Amber would walk away with 21 million, instead a mere 7 million was the figure finally reached in return for a joint divorce statement and charges of domestic violence against Mr Depp dropped.

Personally I think 7 million is nothing to buy her silence, when the actor is reported worth 400 million. She’s going to donate the full settlement it’s been announced, to some domestic violence charity, we are told in a press release.

To Johnny Depp fans this slinks of bitter revenge, but to others who sit on the fence a cheap publicity stunt. Some kind of last ditch attempt at rubbing salt into a very open wound. Some would say its a very clever card to play in getting one over the Pirates of the Caribbean star, but to others it’s a massive blow for women and men affected my this type of violence, as justice won’t be served.

Yes 7 million will change lives through the various charity’s she will donate to, but no way near as much as Amber fighting for justice. Accepting a settlement for her silence does nothing to empower any woman or man in her situation; in fact it serves as a massive discredit to herself, her story and to men and women with a similar history of domestic violence.

In fact it undermines the very serious nature to domestic violence. Now people will doubt her story, as there’s no follow up of justice. This will in turn cast a huge doubt on other genuine cases. Silence from an accuser after all just adds volume to the sound of “made up allegation” comments from others.

The general public will never fully know what happened that night or in the build up to that night. Most of us won’t even know about the earlier reports of violence in 2015 which have been in circulation on-line about Johnny’s jealous behaviour to Billy Bob Thornton. Apparently Johnny cut the end of his finger off by accident in a fit of rage and then dipped it in dark blue paint writing “Billy Bob”and then the words “Easy Amber” underneath on their bathroom mirror. This was in reference to her alleged affair with her co actor. Amber insists the allegations of an affair with Mr Thornton are of fantasy and strongly denies the accusation. Whether the whole chopping finger/mirror paint story is totally true we shall never know, but there are graphic pictures circulating on-line of his supposed finger and of the mirror. We also now know he has a scar on that finger too. So we are left to connect the dots for that occasion.

We know Johnny has a reputation for throwing and smashing things up whilst drunk. 1994 saw the Marks hotel NYC fall victim to another one of his vile rages. Johnny was arrested for destroying a hotel room after an argument with then girlfriend Kate Moss. He tried to blame the $10,000 worth of damage on an armadillo which was never found.

Which then leads us to the fact that Johnny never denied throwing the phone at Ambers face in their recent and final argument and their joint statement confirms no one lied. However all charges dropped to a sceptic looks as if it never took place. This is the worst form of publicity that anti domestic violence needed. In my opinion a buy out is an insult to any genuine case of domestic violence. There must have been a reason behind it I’m sure?

Speaking to others who have suffered first hand domestic violence – they can sympathise with Amber. “It’s easy…” one woman said “to sit there from a distance and say what someone should do in that type of situation, but these abusers often make you feel worthless or as if you deserved to be hurt. Sometimes the mental scars are worst than the physical ones, making it hard to speak out.”

There’s either got to be a massive lack of evidence for her not to have pressed ahead – as domestic violence cases are notorious for needing to be air tight cases. Often having no witnesses becomes harder to prove an act of violence actually took place. Alternatively Amber may have had a “I can’t be bothered – I want it all to go away attitude”. I can imagine the press hounding you day and night will take its toll. I mean could you imagine going up against one of the most loved people in the world? Calling them out and shattering their well preserved and well protected personalities. It’s ironic that he did something bad and it is her who has been made out to be the bad guy. Where’s the justice there?

For Amber there may not be any justice, but let’s hope that 7 million goes towards helping others.

In or Out the EU my opinion in the sea of propaganda

After being subjected to a 5 minute “leave campaign” broadcast I thought I’d write a blog entry to help you understand why I believe we need to remain in the EU. I have been overwhelmed and disgusted by the propaganda and plain lies being spread by both sides in this referendum and have had to dig deep and apply some logic to see the real reasons not the scaremongering being spread.

You may have heard me “banging on” about why it’s important to remain part of the EU for my business. In a nut shell ATBShop sells world wide. Shipping to EU counties, can cost us anything from around £15-£30, depending on the size of our shipment. We fill in one shipping label and then boom! It’s sent on its way and we have a happy customer. Where as we often miss out on sales because non EU customers have to pay not just for shipping but for customs and import taxes. This makes shipping an order, cost anything from £30-£60+ mostly due to customs charges. My staff and FedEx representative so you know absolutely love filling in the extra paperwork which comes with shipping to these non EU countries. Oh and when we tick a box by mistake and it comes back two days later to be resent again with the correct paperwork….. Well I can’t describe that feeling either. It’s a joy. I hope you’re getting my sarcasm so far? It’s only a simple example of a larger cost for any business dealing outside the UK. It’s not just export as also we import from inside the EU and outside as far as China. Non EU imports are much harder on cash-flow and come with complex customs paperwork for every shipment, but it’s as easy to order from a supplier in Paris as one in London as many even have UK £ bank accounts to make it super easy. EU trade at the moment is so easy that we now deal with a lot of manufacturers direct to save on the middle men’s cut and give lower prices to customers. Less paperwork and admin costs means lower prices for all of us it’s simple maths that even I can work out!

I’m someone who grew up watching subsides being snatched away from hard working farmers in the Thatcher era, so know how this will effect our country if we leave. Did you know that Cornwall is the most subsidised part of the UK with EU money? This beautiful part of the UK is my second home. I thought I knew a great deal about its economy, but it surprised me to hear how much EU money was spent there. Did you know that Cornwall received 50 million towards the Eden Project. Did you also know that Cornwall’s university received 173 million and that 53 million was spent on super fast broadband down there? I’m guessing not if you haven’t been an avid watcher of news night lately? Do we really think the good forks we have in Westminster will reinvest in our poorer areas as they already have such a good track record of doing in the past? They always seen much better at lining their friends pockets and filling in expenses after all.

A lot of people who are voting leave are doing so because of EU migrants, who they believe are using our NHS. Did you know you’re more likely to be treated by a migrant than to be sat next to one in a hospital bed?

As someone who is at present chronically ill, I can vouch for that statement.

There are just as many migrants coming from outside the EU than from inside. So we are doing so well at managing their numbers that have nothing to do with the EU? The EU migrants are also unable to claim all our benefits until they have put money into the system and are more likely to be working than the outside the EU immigrants. These bold headlines selling newspapers want you to believe that these migrants are stealing your jobs. When really the vast majority are contributing to our economy. Polish shops aren’t replacing UK convenience shops, but more often opening up boarded up shops and adding to our local economy’s by paying taxes, which is more than Google and Facebook are doing!

The leave campaign say “Let’s spend our 130 million a week membership on saving the NHS.” How about just getting one of those big corporations to pay the correct amount of TAX and save our NHS that way?

Also while we are on the subject of migrants, let’s talk simply about the trade deals and how Norway and Switzerland get to play with us in EU Free Trade market (but we still have to do customs forms to ship to them). Did you know because they are non EU members they have to take more immigrants than the UK pro rata to get the trade deal? Also they don’t have a veto vote they just have to follow the rulings. This cracking trade deal also means they also have no say in the trade market either. Wow sign us up now!

One of my biggest fears is loosing our manufacturing in Britain. The “Leave Campaign Crew” can’t deny that jobs will be lost if we leave. With almost 1 in every 10 jobs being linked directly to our trade deal with the EU, we’d have to be totally stupid to walk away.

If businesses like Honda who are based in Swindon find it cheaper to export to the EU from within the EU then the savings could be enough for them to close an entire factory down and relocate to another country if we leave. Now that’s a very scary prospect but one like many that could happen if we aren’t in the free EU market.

I haven’t even touched on on security. You know we as the EU share terra intelligence right? So maybe we should think hard before we throw away all these amazing connections. It’s much easier to share info when you are in the club and get more of a warm welcome.

Also I’m sure Germany and France and all the other EU countries we’ve just told to “go do one” will be so kind to us when we go asking for a new killer trade deal? I’m sure they won’t use us as an example to other EU countries why it’s best not to walk away from the EU. I mean surely they won’t make it hard for us to work, travel or trade right? I mean after all they love us when it comes to Eurovision so I’m sure we will be fine? Errr can any one say “Nil points”?

I could go on and on listing off facts and figures but like me you all need to read and research as this decision will effect us for the next 10 years. You can probably tell I am more in favour of co-operation and reform than knee jerk reform moving out of the club. Please think long term not short term when you mark that box with an “X”. Do your own research not just the stuff that a lot of wealthy people are paying us to read. But most importantly whatever your views put a x in a box on a voting slip, don’t leave it to others to vote then moan about it afterwards.

Presenting: The good, the bad and the ugly … Comments

I love presenting and can’t describe the feeling in words it gives you. Standing up in front of a crowd with everyone watching and listening to you. Being one of three daughters meant I always had to be the loud one to be noticed, so hundreds or thousands of people watching you be the centre of attention is a priceless experience, and one that everyone should try at least once in their life.

The nerves you get before you open your mouth should be bottled up and sold as a legal high. Your legs start to shake and your heart rate picks up as you walk to the centre of the stage. I’m getting tingles all over just thinking of the moment before I look out and open my mouth.

I don’t do drugs but this is the closest that I will get to the feeling of being high. When you get off the stage and you’ve nailed it, you just want to high five everyone. I may be guilty of the odd fist pump after an appearance, she says wincing.

I’ve had some amazing jobs presenting. I’ve shared the stage with celebrities such as Jake Wood AKA Max Branning, co presented with Fiona Bruce and presented for international brands such as Gore-Tex and GlaxoSmithKline.

Don’t get me wrong there have been moments that I’ve wanted to walk off crying, but you’ve got to keep smiling and hold it together until you’ve taken that last step off the stage.

Luckily I’ve only left the stage once wanting to cry after someone took it upon themselves to destroy me publicly because it gave them a good reaction from the audience. Being a target in front of hundreds of people is sole destroying and I cried the whole way home thinking I never wanted to present ever again. My ego crushed and my confidence in tatters.

I got over it a week later but getting back on the stage filled me with dread that next week. I just told myself that we all have a bad days at the office and that the stage was my office. As it happened the next gig was epic and I selfishly lapped up the positive attention of doing a good job.

This experience makes me really synaptic to anyone being victimised so publicly. Ok so it’s happened to me once but being a presenter or celebrity means that you’re fully allowed to be humiliated and put down anytime, by anyone, for any reason. Most of the public seem to think it’s ok to call out or write unkind comments on social media like they’re never going to be seen by anyone other than their mates. Obviously it’s ok to have a bit of a joke, we all need to have a sense of humour, but not when it becomes a personal attack. That’s the step too far.

Last week Fortnum and Mason held a food and drink award ceremony hosted by Claudia Winkleman. Its F&M way of thanking all of their amazing suppliers; after all F&M do sell some pretty amazing food and drink. (Edible glitter covered shortbread should be on your list to try before you die.)

Well the long and short to this story is that they published the photos live it seemed, onto Instagram as the ceremony took place. There amongst the kind and well thought out messages were some pretty vile comments. I couldn’t believe how many people were being so critical, judgemental and darn right rude. There were some very personal attacks on everyone from Claudia Winkleman the host to the CEO of F&M Ewan Venters.

I couldn’t understand why people felt the need to comment with those negative words when their victims were so obviously going to read them? This event was meant to be about celebration not negativity. These unkind words really seemed to dampen the event on Instagram and really undermine what F&M were trying to achieve. The comments about the CEOs appearance have vanished but the Claudia ones remain.

I like to think that Claudia Winkleman as a professional probably just shrugged her comments off, but they still must have hurt. I now wonder if those words effected her like they did to me at her next gig? She is human after all.

I couldn’t stand there reading the comments without feeling the need to comment back. I hate bullies.

No one commented after my words or took the opportunity to withdraw their comments.

I did receive a private message a day later from Fortnum and Mason.

It was nice to know my sentiments were gratefully received and it made me selfishly feel good for a while and I hoped that Claudia had read them too, so she knew not everyone shared their vile views. I didn’t feel the need to sympathise as a fellow presenter. Just pointing out comments of that kind were not required and weren’t true was my way of silencing the bullies and it work.

I know this isn’t an isolated case and thousands of “trolls” spread vile words daily but we must all stop and think before we comment. Whether you’re commenting on social media or face to face, it’s not on. You wouldn’t stand for it at your office or workplace so why should we?

That’s when the wise words of “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, then don’t say it at all”.

I hope next time people remember that there is a person inside that celebrity or personality and that they are just doing a job.

So next time you’re on a social media page or at a gig – think before they comment.

The Kim Kardashian debate continues

Should we care…? The answer is YES.

I personally think taking a photo that leaves nothing to the imagination isn’t empowering. The fact that she chose to share that sort of photo on such a public outlet sets the wrong example.

It’s actually not ok to post nude photos of yourself on social media. That’s what porn sites are for. I don’t want to see Kims bits in my Twitter feed while I’m downing my tea and toast in a morning. Also when you post on a public platform it’s out there forever. Which I guess is fine for someone with a sex tape in circulation, but not for young girls who have to live with their consequences later on in life.

Young girls will think this is acceptable and copy. #fact.

I don’t want to see an aftermath of young girls stripping off saying that Kim K empowered them!!!

I’m not saying this because I’m a prude, but because photos like this could hinder job prospects in the future. When you’re 16 you don’t think further than a week ahead. I’m not putting young people down. I just remember what it was like to be that age and I’m thankful Facebook wasn’t around to document my antics.

She’s a role model for thousands of young girls who want nothing more than her lifestyle. Which is fine when you’re at the age of 18 but not when you’re in your 30s. I think you hit an age like mine of 32 and realise it’s a shame that girls will never be inspired to be politicians, doctors and teachers because of women like her.

She could use her popularity to empower young girls in different ways – after all she is a very clever business woman, but plays the stupid card so well.

“Come on Kim you could be so much more.”

My dyslexia made me feel I couldn’t achieve much when I was younger. That’s why I succeeded so well at sport. I just kept thinking of what I could do with my life that didn’t require spelling or reading. I wanted to be an actress because I thought I would get away without reading or writing, but thanks to some amazing female teachers who believed and empowered me I was able to achieve good grades. In my quest to be an actress I had been asked to take off my clothes and pose for photos but thanks to my teachers I was warned that this wouldn’t help any on screen career.

They were so right, and now I’m an adult I can be thankful for not taking my clothes off. I would die if any of the children, parents or clients had seen me naked on the internet.

Now for all of you who know me really well then you will know there is one photo of me out there in the public domain which might make people think I’m a hypocrite for writing this.

All I will say is there was a context for this and it’s a photo which isn’t going to shame me later in life, as I’m covered and it’s obviously a joke. To some it maybe a joke to far and a little crass, but to my circle of friends and I it’s a in-house joke which was carefully orchestrated and repeated in good humour. I carefully thought about my actions and consequences. This wasn’t a “snapchat” decision which could be captured and left to haunt me for a lifetime.

Kim’s decision to part with her clothes like she did in her stylish bathroom, just gave girls around the world the green light for some homemade photos to be circulated – entitled “#empowered.” A foolish younger Diana may have joined in, but the wiser, older Diana just looks on with disappointment as Kim – a mum, lowers herself.

Empowerment is so much more than stripping.