Saturday, 28 March 2015

*The Liebster Award* K T Bowes

I am very grateful to have been given a Liebster Award for blogging by the lovely Celia Kennedy. 

Celia blogs at Woman Reinvents Self and is also the gifted author of Charlotte's Restrained, which I have read and can recommend.

The Liebster award is for new bloggers and is given among the blogging community to get to know each other and highlight a newbie. 

My blog, The Bowes Library Corner began as a safe place to express opinions about the world we live in and how we interact with it. It contains a series of different articles which are inspired by my work as an author, events in the world or in New Zealand and the struggles I see many others undertaking. Some people seem to do it really tough and my heart goes out to them, while others coast on through, unaware we all watch with green eyed jealousy. I’m attracted to libraries in a very surreal way; hence the name of the blog. When we were travelling New Zealand, I probably managed to blag my way into most of the libraries along the way and have a nose around their books. We lived in a camper van and I had no fixed abode with which to sign up for membership and I couldn’t have taken a book out even if I wanted to. But I just loved how every library looked and felt different inside, as though reflecting the character of those who ran it. It was fascinating. Books and central heating are definitely the best things ever invented.
Sometimes I blog in my corner about my novels and some particularly interesting piece of research I might have done. My all time favourite blog was an interview with my leading male in the Hana Du Rose Mysteries - Logan Du Rose. No matter what I do, I think I will always love that blog best. Other times I rant about something in life which is unfair or just plain wrong. It depends how I feel.
So, Celia has provided me with a number of questions which I will do my best to answer. Here goes.

1. What was your first blog about?

That’s embarrassing. I think I was defending my right to write on the toilet. It was for another blogger. I’m definitely not giving you the link.

2. How would you say your blog has evolved?

I think I’ve relaxed and allowed more of myself to come through. It was all a bit wooden at the start. I’m less afraid of expressing my opinion nowadays. I’m getting old enough to wear purple and spit, so I care much less about what other people say about me.

3. What do you find most satisfying about writing?

The release it gives me. If I have a bad day, I write about it and feel better. If I dislike someone, I make them a character in a novel and give them a horrid time. Karma is wonderful and they never need to know that I killed them off, gave them acne or made them run naked down the high street in a fictional world, laughing while I did it.

4. Has your blog led you in an unexpected direction?

Yes, I recently joined
I’m a newly nationalised Kiwi, a mother and a blogger. It’s opened up this whole other world of women for me to connect with. Blogging can be a lonely experience if nobody ever talks back, but actually interacting with other bloggers is awesome.

5. How many blogs do you read?

I get email notifications and pick and choose. I like the ones containing writing tips and often check into the ones where parents are blogging about their family struggles, because I’ve been there.

6. What grabs you about someone else’s blog and have you incorporated it into yours?

For me, I’m happy with what I blog about. It’s personal and nobody can write about things the same way I do, because they aren’t seeing through my eyes. But I do take style tips from other blogs that work really well and am interested in those that don’t work great. I like to dissect them and find out why.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you do?

Read, eat, find a designated toilet spot, read and repeat.

8. You can travel to anywhere in the world! What location came to mind?

Lincoln, England.

9. Have you been there before or would it be a new experience?

My parents are there. I haven’t seen them for a couple of years now. I would turn up on their doorstep unexpectedly and hug my mother really hard for a very long time, whilst passing tissues to my blubbering father.

10. Your blog goes viral and you are asked to vlog – would you want to?

I’d give it a go. I have an extremely funny outtake from a vlog I did for a blogger in India in which I was meant to be talking about my novel, Artifact. It took my daughter and I ages to get the seat right, the lighting as we wanted it and I had a few dummy runs. We didn’t realise until much later that the iPhone we used had been running the whole time we were fussing around. At one point I actually adjusted my underwear. Hilarious.

11. Have you ever revealed something in your blog that a loved one was surprised by? Tell us a great story!

I once said in an interview that I started writing because I was lonely and depressed after emigrating to New Zealand. I had heaps of positive feedback from other people who used writing, song writing and poetry to deal with emotional turmoil and it was really edifying. My husband never reads my blogs but this one time he did. He came to me and asked me how I felt and I was a little suspicious, wondering what he was about to drop on me. He smiled at me and walked away. Later when he asked me again, I thought I’d better investigate. Turns out he’d actually read my blog and misunderstood. He thought I always wrote when I was depressed. I’d spent the day tapping on my laptop and he thought I was miserable and harbouring some deep seated issue I couldn’t talk about. We had a very interesting conversation during which I realised that back in 2006 when we first got to New Zealand and I was really unhappy, he hadn’t actually noticed.

Thank you to Celia Kennedy for nominating me. Her novel, Charlotte’s Restrained, I read and really enjoyed.

I would like to nominate fellow author and dragon impresario, CJ Rutherford. I’m sure his Irish wit will stand him in good stead for these questions, although I should probably address them to his sidekick, Claude.

1. What time of day do you blog?
2. What’s the most controversial thing you’ve ever blogged about?
3. What’s the one thing you’ve blogged and then wished you hadn’t?
4. Who is your favourite blogger?
5. Do you find that blogging as Claude makes you braver in the things you say?
6. What is your vision for your blog?
7. What is your favourite blog topic?
8. Did you start with a particular blog style in mind or has it evolved over time?
9. Potato chips or chocolate (Colin not Claude!)
10. Who is your personal idol and would you want them to read your blog?
11. Would you ever take a blog post down if it caused offence, or would you leave it up there for posterity?

Thanks again, Celia Kennedy.

Let’s keep blogging!


*Parent versus State - Raising Kids Shouldn't be this Hard*

As New Zealand parents rage about the two rowers from St Bede’s School being allowed to row at Karapiro, I’m left feeling somewhat confused about what the real issue is here. The media has literally had a field day, fuelling a fire which already stokes itself perfectly adequately behind the cover of most front doors in our nation.

How do we bring up our own children, when the state seems intent on undermining us at every turn?

Was the incident in which two silly boys rode an airport carousel serious enough to warrant their being dropped from a rowing team in a prestigious national secondary school event?

The answer has to be: who cares? The school rector said it was and that should be the end of it. He is after all, the man in whom the parents of St Bede’s put their trust and leave their precious darlings with on a daily basis, happy for him to perform the role in loco parentis (in place of the parent) for most of the year. So why not this day? The boys broke the terms of their contract and brought the school into disrepute. End of. All those people in the airport who had their baggage trampled by the two idiots showing off, saw the St Bede’s school uniform and turned their nose up at the kind of behaviour nice families discourage in their own children. You can imagine the scene. Decent kids from decent homes who happen to share that same uniform as those two boys, had their institution judged by anyone who saw the incident. Nice. And staff at St Bede’s who work hard to provide a wholesome education in a changing world were damned by association. Fantastic. Not!

Does it matter whether his decision was fair or reflected the punishment fitting the crime?

Again, who cares? The board of trustees believe his judgement to be sound and the parents paying the fees for their child to attend, clearly must do or they would have voted with their feet long ago. So the issue of his fairness or ability to make snap decisions is irrelevant. In fact, most of us had never heard of the poor man before last week. Now he’s the subject of a media storm in which everyone has an opinion. Yes, including me.

Now there are reports that one of the fathers misrepresented the facts in order to influence the judge’s decision, but the mistake goes back further, to his perception of his son’s wrong doing. The boy made a stupid choice about his behaviour and has to face the consequences. Doesn’t he?

As parents, we’ve all experienced that awful moment when your child runs to you ashen faced and tells you the headmaster wants to see you. We’ve all been there. Your blood runs cold as you walk back into school, going against the outward flow and clearly in trouble. My son did it to me numerous times and I would stare at the back of his head all the way up the corridor, hissing out of the side of my mouth, “What did you do?”

His version was never the same as the teacher’s. Never. There were shades of him having perhaps been at a similar event, but his take was entirely different. I wondered many times if staff might have got my child confused with another, when faced with his alternative version of events which put him nowhere near the scene. But no. We all knew he did it and he knew there would be consequences. He had to learn that when an annoying little girl in Year 4 gets in your face and refuses to stop nagging the ears off you, it’s not ok to bite her on the arm out of frustration. Life just ain’t like that, is it? It won’t wash with employers, wives or other members of your soccer team. In fact, the only people likely to accept that kind of behaviour are rugby players and my father still has the mark on his bum to prove it. Allegedly, you understand. I won’t be checking!

So how is this going to go?

The boys rowed and a nation sees they got away with it. But did they? Rowing New Zealand are now saying that selection to national teams was not based on a rower’s performance in this event, so the whole thing was a judgement based on miscommunication and supposition. It’s a mess.

What’s worse is the watching generation who now believe it doesn’t matter what those in charge decide for them. There will always be someone bigger who can turn a consequence, punishment, judgement or decision over. So do what you like and be damned.

New Zealand law dictates we can’t smack our children. It’s no longer within our jurisdiction. Some think that’s a good thing, others are left hamstringed by it. Have the statistics in child abuse changed? I don’t believe so from the reports I’ve seen. Child abusers abuse. They don’t administer a smack on the backside for running into the road. They abuse. It’s different. But the argument was fought and lost to the legislators and it’s been a done deal since my youngest daughter was ten.

So, in short, if you want to bring up decent, wholesome children, go and do it someplace else. The state says you can’t smack them when they’re little and the courts will overrule whatever disciplinary measures you put in place when they’re older.

Then all of a sudden when these same children are over the age of culpability, they’ll wind up in court and be given a prison sentence for an offence which they justified to themselves as fun, or harmless, or their given right to behave how they please.

No wonder the prisons are bursting with offenders and the courts are so overworked they can’t cope. Where does it end? Well, we all know, don’t we? But it starts with incidents like this, when someone in a position of leadership identifies a behaviour as unreasonable and administers a punishment - and the courts let them off.

As I sit shaking my head, I wish this next generation the very best of luck.

And they’re going to need it.

#parenting #itdoesntcount #teenagers

Saturday, 14 March 2015

*Online strangers and abusers - Parents wake up!*

As a mother, it never ceases to amaze me how vigilant parents are in safeguarding their precious child from ‘stranger-danger’, boogie men on the short walk home, taking sweets from others that may be laced with drugs and not accepting random offers of a ride home. The principle of never change location, never be unaccounted for, always be reachable by mobile phone or average pitched shout, are as clear to this generation as it was to mine. Other people are not your friend.

Me and my sister knew to trust nobody
Until it comes to the wonderful world of the internet.

Just because our child ‘talks’ about someone as a friend, appears to know heaps about them and repeats endless snippets of veiled hero worship, does not mean they are safe people for our precious charge to be around. Nor does it mean our child really knows them or has ever met them in person. You might just assume they have. Listen harder.

My generation believed ‘strangers’ were three headed monsters with forked tails and cloven hooves, when actually they were the vaguely known man down the street who was always trying to get you to come into his kitchen for a moment to admire his cute dog.

What is a stranger for this generation?

The answer is NOBODY. There’s no such thing as a stranger. Why? Because of the internet.

The snatching of children on their way to school was prevalent in 2000’s UK when I was struggling to raise my 4 in the Midlands. I would let my 10 year old twins walk the half a mile to school provided they stayed together, talked to nobody on the way, crossed with the lollipop lady and didn’t stop in the play park. Most times I would walk behind them with my youngest daughter, taking sneeky peeks round walls, hedges and trees to make sure they were doing as I asked. I only found out recently they knew I was there and used to giggle about me with a degree of irritation.

Four times in 2005 I was greeted by the infamous ‘note’ from the headmaster falling out of the empty lunch box after school. My blood would run cold at the open letter addressed to all parents trying desperately to help their children to independence in a terrifyingly dangerous world.

Parents, please be aware that the police have notified us of an attempted snatching of a school child in this area. They are currently looking for a white car, last seen at.....
We ask for your vigilance in this matter...

We went back to walking together. They knew the rules. Trust nobody.

With the internet, our children can chat to people on the other side of the world, admire their photos and share in their exciting life. How amazing they’re the same age as our child, enjoy the same sports and hobbies and have the exact same issues with girl or boyfriends as them. What an amazing coincidence and how wonderful as a parent to experience the satisfaction of a happy child with good friends to confide in.

When my children went off to a friend’s house in the UK, I either knew the parents and where they lived, or we had a frank phone conversation. As a mother I was open to such scrutiny. Why wouldn’t I be when I expected the favour returned?

But what about internet friends? How on God’s green earth can you check them out as a parent, especially a technically challenged one who has data on her phone which she has never yet worked how to use?

“Oh, I hate computers,” I hear parents say. “I can’t even programme the DVD recorder.”

Then learn!!!

It’s like when the child closes their bedroom door and peers at the laptop screen, they enter Narnia, going wherever and with whomever they like without accountability. And the hapless parent stands smiling aimlessly AND LETS THEM.

How would those same parents feel if they knew that 14 year old Bianca from Auckland, who’s been chatting to their darling Paul for six months is actually dirty Brian from round the corner, a 64 year old convicted pedophile with a long criminal history of crimes against children? He doesn’t need to go watching play parks or driving around in his car anymore. He just buys stock photos of his wonderful pretend life and invents an online persona on social media and hey presto, the poor kids come to him. (Just to clarify, there is nothing wrong with the name Brian - it’s an example, before all the Brians in Auckland get upset.)

Next time your child slams the front door with the shout, “Off to see.................. I’ll be back later!” you need to be running after them making sure you’ve actually met this friend who’s only a bus ride across town.

You can’t put your head in the sand and expect it not to happen to your child. You should be their ‘friend’ on all social media and have access to their online passwords. It’s not cruel. It’s not an invasion of their privacy. It’s your duty as a parent to protect them. If they don’t like it, that’s fine. No computer. It was the rule in our house and faced with the equivalent of internet solitary confinement, we got those passwords. My husband works in IT and is something of a guru, so my kids were convinced he could see anything they wrote. He couldn’t but it made them more careful. Maybe I shouldn’t confess that now, but I don’t think they read my blogs.

If you aren’t confident online as a parent, I’m sorry but that is no excuse. Find someone who is or take one of the free computer courses often available at local colleges. Ignorance will be no defence when you’re mopping up the aftermath of an avoidable crisis.

And don’t get me started on Kindles. Yes they’re fantastic as long as you put your ‘wise head’ on before you hand it over. It’s not just the dent an enthusiastic reader can put in your credit card either. That’s the least of your problems.

When I was researching keywords to put my teen books under, I trawled around the books in the teen categories for inspiration.

“OH MY GOODNESS!” Yeah, you really don’t want to know what I found lurking under the ‘teen’ guise, especially the free books. There were sex scenes that made my hair curl and I didn’t think that was possible. Some of it was plain disgusting. Your child’s Kindle should be registered to YOUR email address, not theirs, because you need to see the purchases. Then all you have to do is go onto Amazon, find that book title and use the ‘Look inside’ facility, where you can read the first 10% of that book. If you’re not happy with what your child or teen is purchasing, you need to have that talk. But delete that book from their device and get a refund. Yes, you can request a refund and definitely tell Amazon why you aren’t happy.

Just understand, as an author, I could potentially shove up any old rubbish with a cover and a title, fulfil all the requirements of the metadata and TELL YOUR CHILD ANYTHING I WANT through the pages of my corrupt work. I don’t. But I could.

If you’re picking up some frustration here then it’s because I’ve had one conversation too many, with parents who are happy to let their child go down the rabbit hole without following them or knowing what they do in there.

Look, I took every possible precaution to protect my children from ill doers as they grew up. I got involved in what they got interested in, I sat through boring committee meetings and spent hundreds of Saturdays doing things I really didn’t want to. I thought I’d done ok until recently, when the leader of one of my children’s clubs was prosecuted. My kids were unmolested, thank God and we were all good parents and couldn’t have stopped it happening because it was too covert.

But the internet is another story. It’s an open doorway into your child’s bedroom. Are you happy with that?

If not, learn to shut the door! Because I promise you this, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” will not comfort you when it’s all too late.

Me aged 3

#internet safety