Come Home…Part 2

Come Home…Part 2

…I didn’t have a lot of anything in the spring of 2017. Well, with the exception of love from a soulmate who not only believed in me, but who stood by me through the damage and panic attacks and self-loathing which was the legacy of the old life’s grisly end.

And the reason my love believed in me? Beneath all the rubble, a light was still shining through the cracked fragments. That promise I made to myself was about to be broken by that cursedly curious mind of mine, abetted by the same defect which meant the whistleblowing was possible in the first place.

And so I turned my attentions to disinformation, elections, the far-right, and Russia.

Starting from nothing, I battered my way into journalism. Gathered a following and crowdfunding at Byline, and eventually managed to scoop the story which changed everything: Russia had engaged the West in hybrid warfare and won, destabilising its long-term adversaries with electoral interference planned over years. Deploying the most ruthless of all psychological weapons to drive wedges into every seam of our society, creating chaos. The installation of malware for the soul. A virus for the human mind.

When Alternative War was first released as a public interest project in 2017, barely anybody believed it. The trolling was intense, tasked, and incredibly damaging. I was dismissed and disbelieved at every step, leaving me burnt-out and demoralised.

And worse still, because I had started to come around to the idea of people being better than I dared believe, some other journalists laid into me to. From their privileged positions of stable jobs with nothing to lose.

This is only a shadow of the privilege which affects billions every day, and it was soul destroying.

Though the security services eventually caught up, and the media sneering was replaced with growing acceptance, I had seen enough. And the echoes from my time before the truth came out in the parliamentary inquiry were too much. Old scars had been re-opened – because in this world you can’t really do right until it also suits somebody else’s agenda. Or circulation figures.

We truly deserve better in this world, but we don’t have better yet. And who knows if we ever will. Battered and bruised, exhausted, I resigned myself to near defeat.

But that soft voice was still there. That love of mine. Whispering to me carry on the journey home. Smiling at me gently as she told me to take as many people along as possible.

And so I opened more doors. And now I’m opening them to you.

Because we do deserve better. And they only way we can get there is together…

Come Home continues tomorrow.



Come Home…Part 1

Come Home…Part 1

I once made a promise to myself. Lying in a ball on a rug, hoodie pulled up over my face, panicked breathing refusing to ease.

It was a fortnight after I left the police on the tenth anniversary of my starting in the service, and I was broken. Blowing the whistle to Parliament on the national failure to record crime properly and the manipulation of resource statistics had taken years but, by May 2014, it was done and I’d forced things to change for the better for victims of crime. The price was a heavy one: the loss of the career I loved, the loss of financial security, the unemployability which comes with doing the right thing.

The promise was a simple one, a child’s almost. I’m never doing that again, it’s just too much.

Just under two years later, I was lying in a bedsit in the dark, listening to the night-sounds of the sink estate and the alcoholic Scotsman screaming to the dark in the room above, stopping to urinate on the floor in elongated blasts. I had been bankrupt for a fortnight, after a road closure of several months killed off the pub I’d managed to renovate and restore.

Life really can be peculiar, because it’s there I found peace in myself for the first time in many years and started to write Forever Completely, a catharsis in fiction. An escape. Oddly, this running away had the effect of opening the door on a journey. A road home to a place where I belonged. A place I could build for my family. The Welsh word for this is Cynefin.

And so it was, in the most miserable of circumstances, Cynefin Road was born. A small, independent publisher working to make book magic on a wing and a prayer.

But this wasn’t intended to be some vanity project, nor a money making escapade. Just a place for beautifully written stories which gives authors a fair deal – a 40% royalty – though advances are still well beyond reach. And it’s slowly building into something wonderful.

My soulmate works full-time while we face the precarious nature of my work as a publisher and crowfunded journalist, but that’s part of the path to building something truly special and, though it causes its stresses, we are committed to the long term dream.

Cynefin Road now has a growing collection of titles, from a wonderful authors, from children’s stories, to sci-fi, to non-fiction – it’s a privilege to have writers like Stephanie Shields, Lu Thomson, Thomas Heasman-Hunt, Soledad Osraige coming home, with others on their way. And then there’s our fabulous house illustrator, Kathleen Day. Best of all, we are receiving new submissions all the time.

But what is home without people to share it with?

And that is why I want you to come home too.

But, I suppose, I should probably explain why things need to change from how they are now, especially as the things I’ve been writing about as a journalist take new turns and the tide seems to have turned. And I have to do that before I explain exactly where we are headed.

It all started because the promise I made to myself on the floor, laying there with palpitations, wasn’t one I kept. And after the door was opened an unexpected trip began…

Come Home continues tomorrow.


Sucking Lemons

Sucking Lemons

You can download the new volume of Cynefin Road’s Audacity zine here. This is my editorial for April 2017’s issue 2:

Have you ever sucked a lemon? Bitten on tinfoil? Extreme sensations which bring about an equally extreme response in most cases. Natural reactions. The truth is the same thing, more often than not, and the reason for this is simplistic: the truth is rarely what we want to hear.

What we want to hear is a heartbeat on a monitor. That we are still loved. There isn’t bad news. This isn’t really happening. We want to hear everything is okay. Rosy. And this is why the truth is often described as being something which hurts. Also why we tend to avoid it as much as possible, fragile creatures that we are. 

Truth, however, isn’t bound by the rules of our wishes, nor confined to the possibilities of what should happen. Mark Twain was right about it, so was Oscar Wilde.

This is why lies exist. This is why alternative narratives have become necessary. The fragility of the human mind, its inability to cope with hurt and the self-defence of emotion, have made the truth an enemy as we have all become less able to cope with pain.

This hasn’t happened overnight though. It’s taken a couple of generations, during which there has been no real pain to suffer, no real experience of the non-metaphorical falls and broken bones truth brings. And the dark seeds which were once kept from the privileged, the shielded alone, are now held back from all. A world without consequence of action breeding in the absence of the hurt which makes humans kinder.

The world around us has become a riddle of lies and deceit, the truth avoided at all costs, and it spreads because people are lying to themselves too. Accepting a first lie, lying to themselves in doing so, and then becoming so afeared of the damage undoing the lies will do they become risk averse to the truth.

Those of us who face the harsh truths, who receive and accept the pain even though we don’t want it, look at this new world differently. Not through jaded eyes, but through frustratingly clear ones. And because we see the truth, understand it as easily as Galileo suggested, we see the cost of lies laid bare. Rail against the accruing debt to be paid by many. We cannot accept the absence of truth in the smallest of matters and certainly do not trust those who peddle it with the important ones.

The fear of the truth, the trembling before the anticipated pain of it, is the disease. The truth itself? It’s the hard knock, the break, the tear, the rip, the cut, the wound. The truth is the magic bullet and its delivery is going to sting, more than a bit. 

The real mastery of the truth isn’t about manipulating it to make it more palatable or suited to your own needs, it’s about owning the searing agony and letting it heal to a scar.

This curation is a collection of truths, some personal, some broader. Some incomplete, some whole. The important thing is that there’s no shying away, no alternative facts. This is sucking a lemon and biting on tinfoil.

This is real. This is human. This is healing.

Audacity Zine #2