Bi-Polar Businessman meets a Mental Health Musician supported by Eric Clapton

In the course of trying to affect a change in how people perceive mental health, I am fortunate enough to meet a whole raft of interesting individuals, each on their own journey, their own path of self-discovery…

They’re not all dealing with the same things as I am, they’re Doctors, Thought Leaders, CEO’s and in the most recent instance, Musicians…

I was introduced to Jonny through a mutual friend and local business woman and we’d decided to have a chat; the premise was, that we were both trying to make a dent in the stigma surrounding mental health and both our disorders were diagnosed as falling into various areas of the bi-polar spectrum, so we had something in common.

After a 40 minute phone conversation it was evident that we were going to get on, very similar experiences, very different experiences and both keen to see if there was any way our story could free others.

So today I want to shout about what Jonny’s doing!

You can see Jonny’s wider story here: Jonny’s Story – MIND

Having been a musician for a long time, throughout his battle with bi-polar, Jonny has always had music there as his constant. As a means of bringing peace to an often busy mind.

He’s now formed the Santiago Quartet and teamed up with Argentinean bandoneon virtuoso Cesar Olguin, to produce a studio album that will be sold to raise money for mental health in support of the charity MIND.

Their upcoming album showcases contemporary Latin American and British music, all of which has a deep personal significance to members of the quartet. The music of Piazzolla combines with a beautiful quartet by Will Todd and a ballad by Eric Clapton, arranged by Nick Ingman.

With a variety of music on the album in donating money to support the initiative you receive gifts which range from Violin lessons, to bespoke oil paintings, involvement in recording sessions and lots more.

I spoke in a previous blog about how music can remedy those moments in life that I find most difficult and here’s a prime example of how it’s changing people’s lives!!

Please do take a look at Jonny’s album plans, what you can win by getting involved and listen here to what the Santiago Quartet have to say.

It’s a positive thing when you meet someone who see’s the world in a similar vein to yourself… I believe the feeling is that you’re no longer so alone in what you go through day to day… To those who suffer from issues surrounding their mental health, it’s important that they know they’re not alone, we’re not talking about the plague here, we’re talking about something that in working together we can remedy. People don’t want to be treated differently, or create a fuss, but wouldn’t it be winning if we all took a step back and said, “what can I do to make support more accessible in my business?” – Think of it as changing lives…

 

The theory & the practise…

I’ve had a lot of questions recently about whether I can talk about how I deal with the day to day in terms of mood variation and so I thought I’d try and cover off a route through the negative…

There are occasions when I generally just feel so very depressed… It sometimes comes from a level of anxiety that enveloped me, given a certain situation or occurrence in my day to day, that said, there are those days when you just wake up and feel like it may be better to hide…

In my instance would say that the ‘wrong side of the bed’ scenario is less often. I generally tend to find that if I’m in a difficult situation, or I’m stressed or frustrated about something, then I will start to feel a surge of adrenaline.

This is the most important bit! The adrenaline control/anxiety level (as some people might contextualise it) is paramount in dealing with the situation, in terms of the eventual calm.

I think the worst feelings come from someone hurting you inwardly, through a flippant comment, sometimes made in haste, or sometimes not even meant within a negative context.

Regardless of cause, there are a few ways to tackle the issue:

  • The Jaunt – For me the adrenaline is the key, and a body standing numb or crumpled behind their computer screen at work is not a good place to be when adrenaline kicks in… With social media so active and email communications or messenger options to colleagues I’d recommend you get the hell out of dodge and do a session around the block. As adrenaline is something we develop when active, it make the most sense to get your body moving and a trudge is a good way to release that tension, reducing the adrenaline rate and enabling you to get back to your original lucid state. (I once saw a film where a man defined trudging “Trudging, to trudge. A slow weary depressing, yet determined walk, of a man who has little left in his life, except the impulse to simply… soldier on!” And that’s what it means to me. When the world hits rock bottom I will take some time out, find my feet and just think, I don’t wrap myself up in the sh*t, I just try and find solution in clarity of vision and while walking, you generally find that’s a possibility. And don’t take your phone with you when you go!!
  • The Journey – An advancement of the jaunt, the journey is useful in the context that an evolution of the level of anxiety has occurred. This could be an argument with a partner, a friend, a boss, a colleague, but generally a journey comes in useful if you’re really feeling cut up by the situation. The way I contextualise a is that it requires a destination, where as the jaunt may be you doing a few laps of the block, the journey should be your lead to a place of solace. For myself I live by the ideal that we should have green in our lives, it’s a well known fact that if you see green regularly this will increase your rate of happiness. This could be with a plant in your office or in this instance of the journey, for me it means going to a park, a garden, a place of considered calm where I can just be with and in nature. To sit or wonder and just to breathe in these environments (again without any phone, stop taking your phone everywhere!!) is a natural release for your body and to be honest it’s a great way to reduce anxiety and try and bring yourself back to a state of normality. This is another good one to consider if you do have one of those ‘wrong side of the bed’ moments, I often walk to the office a different way and the route suits my mood, sometimes changing up the mundane or repetitive elements of our day to day can make a huge difference. (If you want to know more about colour in the context of mood then do take a look here: LiveScience – Colours from Happiness to Depression
  • Buffing it Up! – This requires a certain degree of patience, because we can’t all just run off to the gym when we have issues, we have to learn to control our state and release at the optimum moment. This could be whether you fancy a treadmill as a solution, or if you prefer to take on a martial arts class. And in either context, as you’ll see from the ever expanding yoga craze, just try to find classes that aren’t happy with instructors that got the certification off their back room printer after reading up on the definition of yoga online… That said, I have a huge range of friends and colleague who suffer from all sorts of issues and yoga is a very sound way learning to control your body and it’s state. And if you’re a real man thinking yoga’s too girls for me, then consider two things… 1) Whether you want a 6 pack as opposed to the whole keg and 2) girls much prefer a man with an open mind…
  • Music of Life – This for me is a core part of getting by… Music is a medium I’ve found can completely change my mood in the course of 3 and a half minutes or so… Over the last 10 years, not willing to take medication for my disorder I have relied on the above and on music. There are a number of songs that will send me into a really positive state and played in context with the situation music is a really great stimulant against anxiety or depression. Music has a rhythm that can be used to channel your bodies energy based on the beat and the context of the tune. We must as individuals look at how we change our bodies state, as we perceive it to be, because our perception is a mentally controlled entity and by using music, we can shift the dynamic to a state where our mind is not in control, it just has to let itself be swept away by the music and in doing so we clear our minds, left only to feel the energy we’re feeding ourselves.

A few tunes I love:

Joe Esposito – You’re the Best (also know as the song from the original Karate Kid) – best used in the context that you have a big meeting.

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now – best used in the context that you’re running late or you’ve just had some amazing news!

The Five Stairsteps – O-o-oh Child – (also seen in Guardians of the Galaxy) – best used in the context that you’re feeling depressed or low… This is a good one to bring you through a bad time, it builds you back up gently to the point where you can feel much more positive.

Anyway, apparently my staff are suggesting that I need to head into a meeting now about running a business… The audacity!! So I must away but I want to leave you with one note when considering the context of the above…

The Dalai Lama, if you read his books, says a lot of things that you may think seem relatively obvious… (as with my overview above) But it’s not until you really consider them that you benefit… in life we rarely take the most obvious route, but it’s usually the one that defines a result, our body is a mechanism to the mind and the relationship between the two is such a valuable thing to explore…

 

The Sunday Spot – 17th April

Every Sunday I will drop the businessman in me and put down a piece of fiction… This could be something you enjoy yourself for a bit of escapism, or just read the kids before bed…

Darklands – Journey for Freedom (One of The Questor Chronicles – by Thomas Duncan Bell)

Chapter 5

A Path through the Crystalline Forest

The adventurers continued to run as fast as they could manage through the crystal encrusted trees of the forest that engulfed them. They weren’t sure if they were being followed by goblins from the wall and they certainly didn’t want to risk being captured again. What if next time they were to meet something worse than a witch? “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen” panted William as they finally came to a stop. “I know” replied Samuel “I didn’t think we were going to get away from her.”

Samuel knelt down to lay Bindlebob on the floor before him. “Is he ok?” asked William as he knelt down beside his brother. “I don’t know William, I hope so, I’ve no idea where we are and we must have passed this tree at least five times!” he replied. “It’ll be alright Smello’s” said Bindlebob as he struggled with his words, his chest hoarse from the attack. “Are you ok Bindlebob?” asked Samuel, his eyes beginning to brim with tears at the relief that his friend was conscious again. “I’ll be ok you little rabbit gobblers!” said the hobgoblin as he sat up to catch his breath, hobgoblins are quick healers. “Why don’t we stop here and rest little warriors, this place is safe.” he whispered. The three travellers sat back to relax a while in the small glade, deep within the heart of the Crystalline forest.

Then, out of nowhere came the tiniest ear piercing scream. “Owwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeee!!” They all jumped immediately to their feet, even Bindlebob who was indeed already looking like he’d been healing fast and drawing their weapons they began scouring the area for any sign of a potential enemy. “Who’s there?” announced Samuel, trying his best to sound authoritative. “It’s me you big clumsy!” came the high pitched squeal again. Still none of the friends could see where the voice was coming from. “I’m down here. Why don’t they look down here?” screeched the voice. As they cast their gaze down toward the forest floor they could see what appeared to be a little mushroom waving two small silvery leaves that looked not dissimilar to arms right back at them. He seemed to be beckoning them to come closer. “That’s it, here I am, on your knees if you please?” the creature squeaked as the group drew nearer.

William couldn’t help pushing his youthful face right up to the man in an effort to get a better look. “What are you?” he asked. “I’m not saying a word until big bonce over there gives me an apology!” said the tiny creature pointing a leafy arm at Samuel. “What am I supposed to apologise for?” said Samuel looking confused at the accusation. “You sat on me” said the mushroom man “and it hurted!” “I am truly sorry little one, I didn’t mean to hurt you, we were just so tired that we had to stop and rest” replied the older brother. “I should have been paying more attention.” “You should have” retorted the mushroom man with a squeaky yet gruff undertone. “Now can you tell us what you are little man?” asked William. “He’s a mush man” chimed Bindlebob. “That’s right!” cried the mush man. “The gnome knows! I’m a mush man; a little bit man, a little bit mushroom. My name is Hempleroot.” he exclaimed.

“Nice to meet you Hempleroot” said the boys in unison. “Maybe you can help us?” said William. “We ran into the woods to escape the evil witch of the northern gate, but we’re a bit lost and we don’t know the way out.” “Can you show us a route through the forest Hempleroot?” asked Samuel readily. “Well I might if you grant me a wish?” replied Hempleroot. “What kind of wish?” asked a rather confused Samuel. “We don’t know any magic and we certainly don’t have any powers.” “Well you don’t need magic silly bonce, but you have to promise yes before I agree!” Hempleroot continued, in an even higher pitched voice, eager for the travellers to respond well to his request. “Very well” said Samuel hoping he could fulfil his vow. “If you show us a way through the forest then we will grant you a wish.” “Alright” said Hempleroot, preparing himself “My wish is to come on your journey with you! I don’t mind riding in the pocket of your jerkin and I can show you the way from there.” “Well that’s an easy wish” announced William “We can definitely agree to that, but why do you want to leave your forest? It’s very beautiful here.” “Its rubbish!” said Hempleroot folding his leafy arms in a huff. “All I do all day is wonder around the forest floor; I can’t see anything good because I’m all the way down here and what’s more is, every time someone comes around here they either try to pick me and eat me, or, they tread on me! It’s rubbish being a mush man. I’ve always wanted to go on an adventure, I’m bigger than I look on the outside you know!” he continued.

So, with a renewed spirit and confidence, the adventurers decided to continue their route north through the forest with Hempleroot as their guide, never having thought that they’d ever be lead by a mush man. The band of four wandered for quite some time, continually with the feeling they were being watched at the back of their minds as shadowy figures moved back and forth through the trees all around them. They quite enjoyed the company of their new found friend with his odd little stories of growing up as a mush man and how his family were all but eaten or squashed some years before, in a terrible accident while trying to cross a footpath.

After a short while Samuel spoke “are you sure you know exactly where we’re going Hempleroot?” he said. “Of course I do” replied the mush man. “We’re coming towards the river of red, we will have to cross it, but with you so big I don’t know how.” he squeaked. Sure enough, just as his sentence ended, the crystal trees parted to reveal a vast river before them. The river ran crimson and thick dark, like the blood of a thousand men and William felt a shudder run throughout his body, a lump in his throat as he recalled his father’s body, soaked in blood in the village square several days before.

The river must have stretched for at least twenty feet in front of them and on the other side they could see the remains of what must have been a bridge some years ago. One thing was certain; they were not going to be able to cross without some sort of raft. But before Samuel had chance to consider a solution, his thoughts were interrupted by a poignant howl in the darkness, like the cry of a banshee, piercing the air with its eerie scream.

The friends huddled together back to back, as slowly and silently from the shadows they could see at least eight pairs of silvery eyes moving towards them. A voice spoke from the dark. “What do you think you’re doing in my wood” rasped the voice. “Do you think you can just pass through without my say so?” it snarled. “Why don’t you show yourself scum toes!” Bindlebob called out into the shadow. “Very well” replied the voice. And the eyes began to move forward until the creatures were stood before them, surrounding the band completely with their backs to the crimson river.

As the travellers slowly peered about them they could see quite clearly that the voice that they’d heard was that of a wolf and his pack of snarling followers. The wolves all looked quite similar, great muscular beasts, with silvery flesh that seemed to glisten as they prowled around drooling, their sharp crystal fangs bared at the boys and their friends as if waiting for the order to tear them apart. The leader however was different, his flesh was a duller than the rest, it was torn and scarred as if from a great number of battles and his eyes bled black, as dark as the deepest of chasms, allowing any onlooker to become lost in the dark pool as they peer within.

His face was almost bloated though he had a slim pointed snout, upon which Samuel could see that there were what appeared to be crystals growing from his nose and up across his face, stretching down his back to become barbed crystal spikes that stuck out around his ribs and spine giving him the appearance of a creature of purest evil. “Looks like it’s time for us to feed, doesn’t it boys? Why don’t you come a little closer and say hello…” snapped the wolf, as he steadily began to approach his prey.

The brothers weren’t sure what to do, Bindlebob had vanished again, but they knew he must be somewhere nearby, though there was nothing that Hempleroot could do to save them, as he buried his face in Samuels pocket lining. In trouble again they found themselves wondering whether they’d ever make it to their mother and even if they did what good would they be? They couldn’t take on an army! William’s hair stood on end on the back of his neck; he reached out to grasp his brother’s hand and the boys held one another tight as they stood waiting for the inevitable; the wolves to attack.

Yesterdays Sunday Spot -11th April

Every Sunday I will drop the businessman in me and put down a piece of fiction… This could be something you enjoy yourself for a bit of escapism, or just read the kids before bed…

Darklands – Journey for Freedom (One of The Questor Chronicles – by Thomas Duncan Bell)

Chapter 4

The Witch of the Gate

Bindlebob skimmed quickly round the outskirts of the forest edge. He could see the two boys being carried into the vast wall through a crooked wooden door next to the smaller goblins guard hut and knew that despite his power of invisibility, he would never be able to just walk out across the clearing in broad daylight without being spotted. There were more goblins here than he had ever seen before and they would most definitely notice his footprints in the dusty earth beneath him.

Despite looking terribly stupid, goblins were actually quite bright creatures and expertly cunning when they wanted to be. Bindlebob decided that the best course of action was to try and create some sort of diversion so that he could slip past un-noticed and get closer to the door where the boys had been taken. He had no idea what he could possibly do that would draw their attention for long enough; but he knew that if they were all focussed on one thing then he’d easily be able to get across the courtyard un-seen.

He quickly started rummaging around in the array of coloured leaves that lay before him, until he stumbled across a sharp rock between his feet. Very subtly Bindlebob stooped to pick up the rock, trying to remain as casual as possible, completely forgetting that no one could see him anyway so his covert actions were completely un-necessary. In his mind he was a spy, a shadow dweller who was on a mission of espionage to save his friends and he wasn’t going to be seen by anyone or anything. Then, before he had time to carefully consider a course of action, his impatient nature got the better of him and he clumsily hurled the rock through the air at one of the goblins on the far side of the main gate. The goblin in question was cackling to himself while quaffing away at spider grog, a poisonous, putrid liquid to all but the goblins.

Spider grog was made up of the bodies of dead spiders and birds that had been puréed together into a foul smelling paste, the one thing that all goblins found hard to resist.

Though, despite a moment of merriment on his part, he was swiftly interrupted as the stone from Bindlebob’s tiny hand hit him square in the temple, causing him to squawk in agony as a greenish clotted blood pulsed from the wound. Without hesitation he whirled around and immediately accused the first goblin that he saw. The accused was a sort of rough looking hulk, with huge dark blue skin wrapped around tightly formed muscles, rippling beneath his partial armour chest plate. He stared almost completely without emotion at his accuser as he began to draw his giant sword from its scabbard.

Goblins were notorious for bickering and fighting amongst themselves; after all, this was how they made decisions about things like leadership and who would get the most food, or even treasure, when that was being divided amongst the horde after sacking a village or pillaging a band of travellers. “What do you fink yer doin’ scrag ‘ed?” said the first goblin Fangscuttle, while nursing his temple. “What do ya mean by that stinkpot!?” said the bigger goblin, totally unaware of why he was being targeted. “You it me! And yer gunna pay fer that!” said Fangscuttle, quickly whipping out his blade before his victim had time to draw and driving the cold jagged steel deep into the stomach of the accused, which was followed by a gurgling, spluttering, thud, as the now lifeless figure hit the floor. Bindlebob stood there in a stunned silence, barely able to contain himself following such luck and he watched on as an immense riot began to ensue.

Goblins everywhere were screaming at one another, many of the smaller ones were cut down by their larger allies as they scrabbled about the courtyard trying to defend themselves; the clattering of their weapons and clashing of armour was raw in the air around them. As the chaos erupted before him, Bindlebob was able to gather his senses, realizing that he might not have much time and he picked up a hefty looking stick for protection as he scuttled quickly across the left flank of the courtyard and up to the door, a little surprised that despite the distraction, none of the goblins noticed the stick bobbing up and down in mid air before them.

When he reached the door he tugged hard on the warped brass handle, pushing and pulling with all the might he could muster, but to no avail, the door wouldn’t budge. “I must need a key” he thought as he turned slowly and began to creep towards the guard hut. As he craned his neck around the entrance, Bindlebob could see the small purple goblin dozing away, while seated on a clumsy wooden stool with a large set of keys strapped to his belt, oblivious to what was going on outside. Ever so slowly, Bindlebob crept closer to the goblin, gently raising the hefty stick above his head ready to strike. But before he could attack, the goblins eyes snapped awake and stared eerily at Bindlebob; the stick flew down with a force! Still sitting up straight he lingered briefly in silence almost as if he was unscathed following the incident, this went on to the point that Bindlebob thought he should give him another bash, but there was no need, as after a few long seconds he wobbled slightly and fell off his stool and onto the hard stone floor of his hut, unconscious. The hobgoblin quickly grabbed the keys and ran outside again to the door where his friends had been taken. After failing with several of the oddly shaped keys, he eventually managed to unlock the door and cautiously began to open it. Bindlebob wasn’t sure where the goblins had taken the boys, but he knew he must find them and rescue them. He closed the door behind him and locked it tight so that no one was able to follow him in; he then proceeded along the dark, dank corridor that stood before him.

Almost cavern like in its shape, the corridor was grim, with stalactites encroaching from the ceiling above, lit only by tiny candles hidden in crevices in the walls. The tiny figure continued onward for a while before coming to a corner that led him to his right, revealing a long, winding staircase. “This must be where they went” he thought, as there were seemingly no other doors or hallways that he could make out in the miserable light. He began to move ever so quietly up the stairs; they too were made of stone, just like the walls, but they felt cold and sticky like the slimy skin of the goblins as he almost had to peel his feet from the floor with every step. Bindlebob was still with fear. He knew that while he was invisible no goblins could see him, but something inside him was making him fearful and danger felt too close to remain at ease. As he crept closer to the top of the winding staircase he heard voices growing louder as their owners moved further along the hall towards him. Despite his invisibility, Bindlebob became so nervous that he darted quickly behind a rotting wall hanging so as to be quite sure he wasn’t seen. Then, as the voices were almost upon him, he sneakily poked his head out to see the goblins from the wood strolling leisurely past him and back down the staircase he’d ascended. “What do ya fink she’ll do wiv em?” said Grelbog. “Dunno mate, don’t fancy their chances though” growled Bolrag in response, as they passed down the stairs and out of Bindlebob’s earshot.

Once he was sure that the coast was clear, the hobgoblin gently began to move along the hallway once more. He knew he must be going the right way now, but there was an urgency about his pace as he drove forward, knowing that the boys were likely to be in trouble. He swung fast around another corner, this way to his left and before him stood another staircase. This one was much, much wider than the last one had been and a tattered blue carpet made it look almost grand in the glimmer from the candles against the damp glistening walls. As well as the addition of the carpet, another difference between this as the dingy surroundings he’d passed through on the stairs before hand, was that the steps themselves were much steeper and each very high; it took Bindlebob quite some time to clamber up from step to step with such little legs. Also on the walls around him as he pushed on ascending the stairs, there were hundreds of tiny paintings. Some were of goblins, some were of men, but there were also a number of paintings that represented oddly misshapen animals, far too numerous and grotesque to describe, none the less sending a shiver down Bindlebob’s back. It was a very strange feeling to the tiny traveller, but as he climbed on, they all seemed to be staring in his direction as if they were watching him from their frames. This was somewhat un-nerving to Bindlebob, as he swallowed hard while his stomach bubbled with nervous energy but made a conscious decision to try not to pay attention, as their ghoulish dead eyes followed him up the steps. When he eventually did reach the top he could see a leathery looking door, studded with metallic spikes that jutted out sporadically at awkward angles. Bindlebob pushed himself as close up against the door as he could, craning up on tip toes to push his eye against the keyhole on the left of the doors dramatic Gothic handle. As he did so he discovered that what lay beyond the door was a large room, lightly furnished with a range of tables and chairs, armour statues, wall mounted weapons and to his surprise he could even see the boys. Samuel and William were both hanging from a thick ‘hemp like’ rope that had been bound tight around their wrists; they hung from the far wall of the room.

Bindlebob wondered how he was to help them, but after another quick glance around he realized that he couldn’t see anyone else in there, so drew his small blade from it’s sheathe and decided to try the door. To his amazement it opened with ease and the hobgoblin wondered cautiously through the centre of the room, towards where the boys hung. What Bindlebob hadn’t seen through the keyhole, was that the room was covered from wall to wall with bookshelves; they were brimming with old and tattered books and seemed too far off the ground for any human or goblin to reach. Before him stood a large wooden table with a host of assorted archaic chairs scattered clumsily around it and as his eyes roved around the room he also noticed that one of the walls hosted a thin window, through which he could see out onto a sliver forest and the rocky plains of the Darklands in the distance. As he whirled about in awe he noticed that on the wall behind him, above the entrance was a large antique portrait.

The portrait was of a beautiful young woman wearing a green silken dress and her face looked almost as if it was filled with the deepest of sorrow while he watched on, mesmerised. As Bindlebob stood before him gazing at the portrait, Samuel’s eyes opened slowly to see a host of muddy footprints dotted around the room. “Bindlebob!” he cried. “Thank goodness you’re here; we thought that you’d left us!” “Not to worry smello’s, it takes more than a goblin or two to stop old Bindlebob!” he jeered as he scrambled up Samuels leg and swiftly cut the boys loose allowing them to drop to the floor rubbing their wrists.

Suddenly a voice rose from across the room, filling the air around them with an almost unbearable echo. “Do you think that I can’t see you master gnome?” sneered the voice, from behind Bindlebob. “Do you think that your foolish pixie magic will work on me?” As the three friends looked up at where the portrait was hung, they saw woman, floating before them above the doorway. There was no longer a figure in the portrait, but the woman they saw was not what they remembered from the painting. This woman was not beautiful at all. She was haggard; her face was difficult to gaze upon as it was creased and shadowed with age, almost like her soul was lost and had taken the colour of her life with it. She did indeed wear a green silken dress as the girl in the frame had, but this dress was not as it had been, it was tattered and worn, grubby and gnarled with the ill-keeping of years; tormented as its wearer. The woman had long grey wispy hair and her eyes glowed golden, like the crimson fire of their village as it skipped about and drifted to ash. Samuel and William stared at her, their thoughts beginning to grow black as they saw their father, he was fighting wildly with passion as he was struck in the chest by an arrow and run through with a darkened blade; they saw their mother screaming as she was beaten by a man clad in black armour and loaded into a caged wagon.

The brothers felt weak, recalling how far they’d come, hearts racing against their will, sweat beading across their brows as they felt like they were choking, swallowing their own tongues as they suffered for air, it felt as if death was slowly taking the boys forth into his world of fire and anguish, snatching their lives from about them as a reaper in his corn field. The room had become hazy and distorted as the pair fell to their knees; a scream broke the silence, dragging the brothers from their trance. “Don’t do it smello’s! Don’t look at the eyes; she’s a witch with spells to cast! Don’t look at the eyes!” cried Bindlebob as he thrust the boys to the floor, breaking their gaze. As the last words left his lips, the witch raised a long skeletal finger and the hobgoblin flew immediately across the room and into the far wall by the window with a crunch, falling to the floor into a silent, motionless heap, bruised and bloodied after the attack. “Silence you pathetic little imp! You think you can stop me having my way?” she whirled back around to face the brothers. “You think you’re safe, you think you can escape? No one escapes me! You will go to your death just like all the others!” she cackled. As she grimaced away still cursing them, Samuel and William began to sink into the floor.

What once was stone was now more like a thick concrete and the deeper the boys got, the more their bodies felt as if they were being crushed, as they were slowly enveloped against their will. “William, your sling!” gasped Samuel. “You have to strike her!” William didn’t wait to ask any questions, he quickly removed the sling from his belt and fitted a stone from his pocket into the pouch at its centre. Then, before the Witch could comprehend what was happening, William loosed the stone hard at her face, striking her just above the right eye, leaving her screeching wildly as she fell to the floor. Still reeling from the wound she too began to sink into the floor as it bubbled and slurped away, thick as the quick sands of the northern plains, always eager to feed upon their prey.  Samuel had managed to reach out and grasp one of the chairs next to the table and drag himself from the engulfing mass, skipping expertly onto the vast table and reaching out for his brother still struggling before him. William took hold of Samuel’s hand and between the two of them they managed to mount the table.

Without wishing to linger too long as it slowly disappeared into the floor the brothers gingerly jumped off the table and from one piece of sinking furniture to the other until they reached the stone window ledge; then sweeping down to scoop up Bindlebob Samuel realized what awaited them as he looked down from the window at the drop below. It was a very long way down and they were clearly out of options until the faint voice of their injured friend whispered at them, not making much sense but trying to hand something to the boys from one of his pockets. “What is it Bindlebob?” asked William, but the response was garbled, though they thought they heard the word magical before he fell out of consciousness once more.

William opened his hand to show Samuel what he’d received and it appeared to be a small reel of golden cotton. Samuel looked visibly worried “and what exactly are we supposed to do with that?” he exclaimed with a hint of cynicism. “Didn’t you hear him brother, it’s magical” said William as he began to tie one end of the cotton to a suit of armour, the body of which had almost entirely disappeared into the floor. Then he took the reel and threw it from the window, letting it fall further and further until it was out of view. “What are you doing?” cried Samuel. “Trust me” replied William and he started to shimmy down the cotton as if it was the toughest of ropes. Samuel began to follow his brother carefully, with Bindlebob under one arm, navigating his way down the tower and the following wall. The brothers zipped quickly down the golden cotton, surprised at its strength and the soft feeling while clutched in their hands. They could hear the squeal of the Witch as they descended and good natured as the two were, they couldn’t help feeling lifted as she sunk to her death in the chamber above.

When they reached the bottom they saw the most beautiful silvery forest, all of the trees seemed to be made of the purest crystal, twinkling in the light of the afternoon sun as they would sway in the gentle wind from the East. No sooner had their feet hit the ground, the boys ran as fast as they could into the thickets and while a growing feeling of relief began to take over their bodies, the brothers knew that their adventure was once again on the move.

Mental Health awareness week…

Please Note: This blog post is in support of the Mental Health Foundation

Every year, thousands of supporters across the UK take part in Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the week will take place from May 16-22 on the theme of relationships.

Healthy and supportive relationships are key to good mental health. Join us all in celebrating the people and connections in our lives that add to our wellbeing and help us thrive.

Hold an event

Think about ways you can bring people together and start conversations around mental health. Some suggestions could be to:

  • Host a wellbeing walk – with friends, colleagues or people in your community
  • Set up a stand in your local hospital, community centre, library or supermarket
  • Hold a series of lectures or talks on mental health – make it interactive as possible and get the audience involved!

The Mental Health Foundation fundraising team have got you covered with more event ideas for the workplace, schools and your communities.

Don’t forget to add your event to our activity map – you can also see what other people are planning during the week.

Spread the word

During the week the Mental Health Foundation will be posting stories and information on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Please follow them to help them share their messages and to join in the discussion. You can also let us know what you’re getting up to by using the tag #MHAW16.

Share your story

If you have a personal story about how relationships have been a source of strength in your life and would like to share it with us, please send through 400 words to stories@mentalhealth.org.uk

Mental Health Awareness Week FAQs

Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 will take place from 16-22 May on the theme of relationships.

How can I get involved?

During the week we encourage our supporters to hold events and campaign to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing. You can find out how to get involved as an individual, within a workplace and as a community here.

You can also find events to attend in your area through our activity map

Can you send me materials supporting Mental Health Awareness Week?

We will be producing a range of materials to support your events which will be released closer to the week. This will include a poster, leaflets, and a donation box. You can pre-order your pack here.

We will also be producing digital materials in the run up to the week such as infographics and banners which we encourage you to share to help raise awareness and get more people involved!

How can I fundraise during the week?

The Mental Health Foundation is a charity that relies on public donations and grant funding to deliver and campaign for good mental health for all.

You can find out more about fundraising for us and get inspiration for the types of events you can hold here.

Do you have any funding available for my event?

Unfortunately as a charity with limited resources, we don’t have the capacity to provide funding for events held during the week. However, you can publicize your event through our activity map, and we can also send you a free pack of materials including a poster and leaflets. Please sign up to our mailing list to be the first to know when these are available for pre-order.

Can you help me publicize any events I am holding during the week?

You can submit details of your event to be displayed on our activity map. We will be publicizing this map in the lead up to the week so that supporters can find out about and attend your events.

How can I become a partner organisation during the week?

If you would like to support Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 as an organisation, please get in touch at awarenessweek@mentalhealth.org.uk. You can also find out ways to get your workplace involved here.

The Sunday Spot – 3rd April

Every Sunday I will drop the businessman in me and put down a piece of fiction… This could be something you enjoy yourself for a bit of escapism, or just read the kids before bed…

Darklands – Journey for Freedom (One of The Questor Chronicles – by Thomas Duncan Bell)

Chapter 3

The Northern Gate

After a few long hours travelling along the northern path, in the overbearing heat of the midday sun the three friends began to grow weary. The brothers hadn’t eaten for quite some time and their stomachs felt bloated and painful as they pressed on, trying to ignore their blistering feet from the endless trudge toward their enemy and the freedom they meant to offer their people. The road seemed like it would never end as they came to rest in the shadow of a nearby cluster of trees.

“Let’s find some food” said Bindlebob, “I’m starving and rumbly!” “I think we should” replied Samuel, glad that he hadn’t been the first to break the deadlock. Slowly, the travellers began to forage in the bushes either side of the path for things like mushrooms and cabbages, the most common food to be found among the dead branches and spindly twigs that made up the forest floor. Before very long William had pulled up two whole cabbages, almost the size of his own body and Samuel had found a whole host of wild berries and mushrooms for them to enjoy. The boys piled their findings together, using a fallen tree bow as a makeshift bench, while they began to prepare the vegetables for cooking, nibbling cheerily away as they did.

While they continued in their preparation, William was the first to speak. “Where’s Bindlebob?” he said. But scanning the area that surrounded them, neither of the boys could see where their friend might be hiding. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe he’s still just looking for food?” replied Samuel. “That’s right smello’s!” a voice bellowed out as if from nowhere. “Bindlebob! Where are you?” called William, his head still roving around, unsure of where the voice had come from. But instead of a response, Bindlebob appeared, like a flash, directly in front of the two brothers. “How did you do that?” asked Samuel, still stunned that they’d not been aware of this unlikely skill before. “That’s easy!” replied Bindlebob. We hobgoblins have always been magical folk, able to make ourselves invisible so as to keep us from harm. Plus, it means that we can get up to things that others can’t” he said with a wry smirk forming across his scaly face, as he pulled out two dead rabbits from inside his dressing gown. “Where did you find those?” said Samuel, with a hint of concern in his voice. “Never you mind master Samuel” said Bindlebob, as he stripped the skin from the tiny creatures. “It doesn’t matter brother” said William, “as long as we have food. I’m so hungry I could eat a whole family of rabbits!” “But how shall we cook all of this food?” asked Samuel. “Not to worry, trust old Bindlebob!” and at this, Bindlebob drew from behind his back a large, rounded saucepan. “I don’t think I want to know…” said Samuel and he stooped to light a fire with a few pieces of kindling wood he’d gathered from the base of the nearest tree. Bindlebob immediately began fussing and muttering away as he circled the pot, adding mushrooms, then cabbage, then rabbit, followed by more mushrooms. He then drew his knife and held the pot up against the woody coat of a tree, while he thrust the blade deep into the flesh of the bark, allowing a delicate flow of sweet saps down his blade and letting it drip gently into his rabbit and vegetable mix. Then, almost without seeming to move he gave it all a quick stir and the pot was over the fire, simmering slowly into a beautiful rabbit stew.

“That was very good Bindlebob; but I feel so tired” said William, as he finished his share of the stew. “Go to sleep brother” said Samuel, “I will watch over you.” But as time passed them by, in his peaceful ignorance Samuel’s eyelids began to droop, while a heavy, numb feeling washed over his body and he fell silently into the deepest of dreams.

After a short while of lying peacefully, the boys were startled awake by a sharp crack as they jumped to their feet almost simultaneously to see a gnarled wooden arrow embedded into a fallen tree, not far from where Samuel had lay. But before they could even gather their senses, the two boys were swept off their feet and into a large mesh bag. As they began to focus on what had caused the chaos, they realised that holding the bag was a giant goblin. The boys froze; their hair almost on end as their bodies tingled with fear, shuddering at the sight of the beast that stood before them. Neither of the brothers had seen anything like it, but they’d heard their father talk often of the goblin wars, where all men had gone to fight for their land and for freedom, against the monstrous, grotesque creatures. This was until one day a cunning warrior came to end the plight, before he was crowned King of all Earthengale, later to disappear mysteriously forever, dividing the plains between North, West, South and East.

The goblin before them was a good seven feet tall in Samuel’s eyes. It had green slimy skin as dark as the leaves of an Oak, at the height of summer. It had jagged, rotten teeth, that were pointed and sharp; they were stained deep yellow and were clearly not looked after, which was confirmed by the stench from the goblins breath as it crept like a foul elixir through the air, choking their lungs with its thick smell. The goblin wore chain mail armour, which hung loosely over the bloodied fur of dead animals that clung to his broad, bony shoulders, like a vile robe. In his right hand he had a crooked wooden bow and strapped to his back was a ‘leather like’ quiver, full of twisted and distorted arrows. “Bolrag! Come look what I’ve found!” squawked the goblin, raising the bag up in front of his wrinkled, slimy green face to get a closer look at what he’d caught. “What is it Grelbog?” said another haunting voice from beyond the trees surrounding them, as another goblin appeared.

The second goblin was distinctly shorter than the first, though he was dressed in a similar chain mail which again hung across some bloodied fur pelts, almost like a miscreant uniform. However, this second goblins skin was more of a muddied brown colour and William let out the tiniest of whimpers, as he noticed the huge jagged sword he had strapped to his belt. “These look like the blighters what stole our rabbits!” said Grelbog, indicating the skins that Bindlebob had stripped from the corpses and subsequently cast aside. “And that’s my pan!” cried Bolrag, as he stooped to grasp the saucepan from the fire swilling the mix into his mouth only to spit it immediately to the floor. “Yuck! It tastes all nice!” he snarled. Samuel slowly, noiselessly drew his knife and tried to slice through the mesh of the bag, but it seemed to be made from some sort of metallic wire and his efforts were useless. “Awww you won’t cut through that in an hurry you little blighter!” said Bolrag, spotting Samuels feeble efforts. “Why don’t we take ‘em back to ‘er chamber?” cackled Grelbog, as saliva dribbled from his bloated lips. “Good idea, let ‘er deal wiv ‘em.” retorted Bolrag. And the two goblins began to stomp off along the path where the boys had originally been travelling. “Where’s Bindlebob?” whispered Samuel to his brother. “Look” replied William and he pointed in the direction of some steadily emerging footprints that seemed to appear in the earth behind them, as the goblins trounced clumsily along unknowingly. Samuel smiled. “Don’t worry smello’s Bindlebob won’t let you get taken by these uglies!” whispered a reassuring and friendly voice from mid air.

It wasn’t long before the road before them seemed to widen and the goblins turned a corner just as the trees tailed off to reveal, in front of them, a vast wooden gate, fortified by a castle like structure that enveloped it. The gate was set right in the middle of a huge, worn, grey brick wall, with a range of battlements resting jauntily above it. At the left of the battlements there stood a winding, crooked tower which grew almost completely lopsided as their gaze drew nearer to its peak and the boys couldn’t comprehend how the structure stood firm with its cobbled wonky edges and rickety ramparts. Above the centre of the gate was a large metallic plaque, and upon it was written is bold black ink ‘The Northern Gate – May luck be with those who travel forth and beyond!’ Below this was also a smaller plaque that read ‘Entrance to the Crystalline Forest and the Darklands of the North.’

There were goblins everywhere! The battlements were brimming and the courtyard teeming with the filthy creatures, that until recently Samuel and William had never really believed existed. They were short, fat, skinny, tall, vile looking creatures, all with a different and more disgusting shade of skin than the last that let off a smell which sort of amalgamated in the air and was not dissimilar to that of vomit. It was all the boys could do to stop themselves from gagging at the sight and smell of what lay before them. The majority of the grim creatures were crowded around a fire to one side of the main wall and Samuel was no longer feeling as comfortable as he had, when he’d thought there were only two of them to outwit. Also, he could no longer see the footprints of Bindlebob in the dirt around them and he began to wonder if their new found friend had changed his mind about helping them out of danger. The brothers remained silent and steady in their captive state, ever watchful of an opportunity to escape, but both of the boys knew that now was clearly not the time. They would get nowhere if they tried to struggle free and besides there were too many enemies for them to ever make it out alive.

The goblins halted as they arrived at a smaller wooden side door, which lead directly into the base of the great wall. They stood for a moment next to what must have been some sort of guards hut, then, after a little scuffling from inside the hut, out popped a very small goblin. The miniature beast wasn’t a great deal taller than Bindlebob, but he had a head of thinning grey wispy hair and purple skin, with mottled glasses, which almost hung from a crooked pointy nose. “We’ve brought a couple ‘o prezzies for ‘er mistress!” announced Grelbog. “Well you’d better get a move on and enter then” replied the little purple goblin, as he unlocked the door which swung steadily open to reveal a black tunnel before them, lit only by the tiniest if candles. The boys were now stiff with fear, the hair on their necks stood to attention as they trembled, each almost lifeless in their captive state.

Where were the goblins taking them and who was this mistress they spoke of? Where had Bindlebob gone, was he coming back and could they even trust their new friend to help them? The brothers clung to each other for comfort, but neither of them knew what fate lay in store, as day became black and the door crept heavily closed behind them.