Hayley is a Ghost

Archive for November 2011

I live close to the local Sainsbury’s store and went there today to buy some food for the weekend. As I entered the store there were two trollies in the entrance area that were slightly filled with dried goods, they had signs on them that explained how Sainsbury’s were doing a campaign to ‘help feed those in need’ called the ‘one million meal appeal’.

A photo of the shopping trollies/carts at the front of the store that people have already started to fill with pasta, rice and canned goods.

Essentially they were asking shoppers to spend an extra couple of pounds in store and donate dried goods (pasta, rice, sugar, tea, cans etc.) to the trollies. All donated goods are going to be sent to ‘Fareshare‘ and the company are going to match the donations made by customers.

The goods all go to Fareshare, who are, according to their website:

a national UK charity supporting communities to relieve food poverty. FareShare is at the centre of two of the most urgent issues that face the UK: food poverty and food waste.

You can find out more about how they help people here.

However, these stats are pretty awesome.

  • In 2010/11, the food redistributed by FareShare contributed towards more than 8.6 million meals
  • The FareShare Community Food Network has 700 Community Members across the UK receiving food, training and advice
  • Every day an average of 35,500 people benefit from the service FareShare provides

For my entire life I have taken food and drink for granted. As I grew older I became aware of famine effecting third world countries. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve become aware of just how many people in this country go without food and drink because they cannot afford it – and not just the homeless.

The only time I have ever come close to not being able to buy food was during the few months I was on Job Seekers Allowance. My payments hadn’t been processed correctly and I had gone 6 weeks without any money. My family had been forced to support me and feed me and suddenly they couldn’t afford to do that any more and I had to beg a lady on the phone to give me an emergency loan of £40 just so I could go and buy some food and drink.

When I got to the Jobcentre to collect my cheque I was filled with such a sense of relief that it made me feel groggy. I then walked with the other dozens of people in the same position as me to the post office to cash our cheques in. It was horrible and humiliating and I promised myself I would do whatever I could to help others.

I am now in full time employment and when I saw this appeal in store I put my shopping aside for one moment and went and purchased as many dried goods as I could put on my debit card (I had no cash on me or it would have been much more), I paid for them and then put them in the trolly. The store manager was there and was surprised to see me emptying the whole basket into the donation trolley, but he thanked me and explained all about how they were to match all the donations. He was very passionate about it and that made it ever more awesome.

I spent £10.53 on donated food – it’s surprisisng how much rice, pasta, tea, coffee, sugar, cans of veg and soup, and hot chocolate you can buy for £10.53. (I put the hot chocolate in because everyone needs hot chocolate.)

photo of the goods I donated Two packs of rice, some pasta, tinned soup and vegetables, tea bags and coffee and a jar of hot chocolate - because let's face it, everyone needs hot chocolate.

One bag of Basics range rice costs 55p. One bag of pasta is 89p. A can of peas were 34p.

I could afford to buy these things and I’m glad to know that someone else will benefit from them. Sometimes being in need is a situation completely out of your control and it’s embarrassing and humiliating to have to ask for help. If that help is already in place though, it makes it so much more easier.

That’s why I supported Fareshare today with my donations. That’s why I’m asking that if you are out shopping today you consider popping into your nearest Sainsbury’s and donate £2 worth of tinned veg or pasta.

A photo of the sign that caused the debate. It reads 'Skepticon is not welcomes to my christian business'I’m atheist because I belong to no religion and do not believe there to be a god/gods. Atheism is not a huge part of who I am, it’s just there.

I follow numerous people on twitter who are more vocal about atheism than I am and I often see tweets and posts about atheism. Recently I caught snippets on Twitter about how Skepticon attendees had been banned from an icecream store when a sign was put on the window  telling them they were not welcome in the ‘christian business’.

It’s illegal to ban people in that manner and the way people were talking about it made me assume that they had been banned for no good reason, and simply because they were non believers. I was outraged on their behalf – I’ve never personally witnessed religious intolerance and I’ve never been a victim of that, but my younger cousin has when she was spat at for wearing a crucifix. She was still in primary school, and although I don’t share her beliefs I felt outraged anyone would treat another people like that – especially a child.

However, today I saw a posting by the owner of the ice cream store in question explaining why he posted the sign and I was reminded of that important lesson we’re all taught early on in life – ‘there are two sides to every story’. This is what he had to say:

What I saw instead was a man conducting a mock sermon, reading the bible and cursing it. Instead of saying “Amen”, the phrase was “god damn”. Being a Christian, and expecting flying saucers, I was not only totally surprised but totally offended. I took it very personally and quickly decided in the heat of the moment that I had to take matters into my own hands and let people know how I felt at that moment in time.

What followed was the creation of the sign. A totally bad reaction on his part, but I find that I can understand why the owner did what he did. This doesn’t mean I condone it.

What I find the most concerning is that a mock sermon of that nature took place and the people involved wonder why someone got annoyed.

You’re free to do what you want and I’m not going to condemn the mock sermon even though I think it is an ugly, intolerant and disgusting thing to do. I just wanted to write this post to say that those skeptics… those atheists or non believers or whatever they want to call themselves who are surprised or outraged by what happened, should really realign the way in which they think about free speech.

You are free to do and say as you please, even if it is offensive – but don’t be surprised when people get offended and act on that. Chances are you’ve done the same at some point in the past.

I think this is a great example of how labels such as ‘skeptic’ or ‘atheist’ or ‘non-believer’ are not all encompassing. I am not like the people who took part in the mock sermon, I’m not like those claiming that the owner of the store should be made an example of.

I’m glad of that.

No doubt I’ll be told I am wrong for what I have written, or that I don’t ‘get it’, and that’s fine because you’re all entitled to your own opinions just as I am mine. However, for what it is worth, you’d only need to ask me for forgiveness to get it.

Waaaaah!

Today I finally managed to purchase the final tickets for those who won the draw for Free QED tickets. The tickets were funded by donations sent to me by lovely skeptics from all over the world and in total we raised enough to send SEVEN skeptics to QEDcon next March!

Seven! That’s an incredible achievement.

Tomorrow I will be posting the Placebo Bands that some of the people who send in donations qualified for. What fun!

Thank you to everyone who donated and made this possible, and to those seven who now have tickets to QED in your inboxes, see you in Manchester in March! YAY!

I’ve often blogged in the past about the ageist, sexist and threatening behaviour I’ve had to deal with in comments and in person as a result of speaking my mind.

People have said they’re going to corner me at conferences, have told me I am ‘too boyish’ for their liking, and have explained to me that I am a ‘receptical worthy of any mans porridge’, to name a few highlights.

[Examples of my past blogging here, here, and here]

Green fire exit sign adapted to show the silhouette of a woman running for an exit.

Recently a lot of people have been speaking out against misogyny that they’ve experienced as women who write online and it reminded me of the stuff that I’ve been the target of.

This week Skepchick Rebecca Watson wrote about comments left on Facebook by a ‘comedian’ who was digging up old news and making tired old stereotypical comments.

Rebecca wrote about why she doesn’t think ‘don’t feed the trolls’ is a good approach to dealing with those who make abusive comments to posts, videos and more saying:

What it [don’t feed the trolls] means: Suffer in silence. Read those emails about what a fucking cunt you are and then quietly delete them. Go lay in bed and cry until you don’t necessarily feel better but can at least pretend like you feel better so that we can all continue our lives blissfully ignorant of anything bad ever happening. The abuse will continue to come, because they don’t want attention – they are bullies. They want power over you. They want your silence, and they got it.

Rebecca then went on to say she was in favour of more of people speaking out about this sort of unacceptable abuse in the way that has happened in the last few weeks.

It got me thinking. I always delete hateful comments but suddenly, after reading that Skepchick blog post I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing or if it was helping. There have been times when I’ve wanted to attack my trolls right back.

I’ve spent some time in the last few days mulling things over and ultimately I think there’s a difference between speaking out against misogyny as many have done these last few weeks, and trolling your trolls right back.

Although making fun of those who are abusive to you online can make you feel a bit better, it ultimately just drags out the interaction you have to have with that person and that can’t be healthy. It gives people the justification they seek to practice their stereotypes and abuse. That isn’t to say you’d be to blame for any abuse you got, but they will use any abuse you issue to them as a justification in their mind and in their explanations.

Personally when someone is an idiot on my blog or youtube account, or on a social media site I delete them, I block them and I never think about them again. I end the interaction before it could even begin.

I’ve noted the advice from the lovely Sharon Hill,

“choose your battles wisely”

I used to battle it out with people on my blog in the comments, I used to do what I thought was the right thing, but now I just walk away.

Trystan, my co-host of Righteous Indignation, had told me in the past of emails sent in to the podcast that he has not passed on because of the content aimed at me. I’m fine with not knowing what people had to say about me because it’s their time wasted and not mine.

I don’t take the time to listen to what those people have to say but there was a time when I did. It used to stress me out and worry me and I’m pretty sure it was a contributing factor to the crippling anxiety that derailed my life for a few months.

However, now I simply delete comments and ignore them, but I don’t agree with Rebecca that it means I am giving these trolls the silence they want. I’m simply not bothering with them and I’m pretty sure that want they want is to see that they’re getting to me and by not posting or replying to them they’re not getting it.

I actually find it empowering to hit delete when the troll is dying for me to try and defend myself when there isn’t any point. Every time someone makes a hateful comment on my blog or elsewhere they get flagged as spam and I never have to deal with them again.

I’m not going to enter into a ‘debate’ with them, and I’m not going to degrade them in public in return by drawing attention to them.

I don’t go ‘lay in bed and cry’ about it just because I’m not shaming the people who are abusive in my comments section.

I just use the time I would spend tackling trolls doing something more productive that isn’t going to end with me sitting behind my keyboard waiting for more hateful comments from more people sitting behind their keyboards that I am never going to meet.

If adults can’t behave like adults that’s their problem. I don’t make it my problem because that is what they want.

People will deal with their abusive trolls in their own ways which is totally cool, but I think that ignoring them is a valid way to tackle hateful bile too. Not responding doesn’t mean the trolls are winning, it often means that their intended victim just isn’t giving them the time of day.

water colour painting of a poppy Since I was a child I have visited the small town of Ypres in Belgium numerous times, and while there I have gone on to visit the numerous war memorials and burial sites where there are hundreds and hundreds of white crosses marking the burial place of soldiers killed in WW1 – allies and non-allies (whose grave markers are actually black squares laying on the floor). Then there is the Menin gate in the town centre itself that is covered with the names of those who are missing in action from WW1.

The poppy worn for remembrance has its origins in the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ that was written by Lieutenant Colonel Colin McRae. I’ve visited the place McRae is said to have written the poem. It’s a very somber place. There are poppies everywhere.

This year I am not wearing a poppy on remembrance day. I haven’t got one because I haven’t been anywhere that has sold them.

It doesn’t mean I wont remember the people who have died in conflict – both troops and civilians, family and strangers…

A poppy is a symbol. A two minute silence is a symbolic action. You don’t need a poppy to remember and you don’t need a two minute silence to remember.

Shockingly to some, you don’t even need to remember. It is completely your choice and you shouldn’t have to face questions from people about why you’re not wearing a poppy or being silent.

If you’re one of those people who has stopped someone in the street or has questioned why someone isn’t wearing a poppy (which has happened to me twice), ask yourself why it is any of your business what another person chooses to do, and then walk away.

Perhaps if you are one those people who has posted on Facebook ‘you can either stand behind our troops or stand in front of them’ you can ask yourself what you are actually saying. We should agree with your view on war or be prepared to die?

If you really stand by that sentiment, you are a pretty horrifying person.

I’m afraid to break it to you, life isn’t that simple.  Actions and words and feelings and opinions are very complicated.

Some people will wear a poppy, some people wont wear a poppy. It’s not problem. Some will remember with or without a poppy and some wont take the minutes to remember at all. It’s their choice and not yours. It’s called ‘freedom of expression’ and it’s a basic human right.

Deal with it.

Tweets spread quickly today after nationalrainenq, the twitter account of ‘National Rail’, tweeted ‘Passengers are currently unable to alight from trains at Shepley due to reports by police of a lion in the area.’

a screen capture of the tweet about the lion
It was then tweeted that the police had given the all clear and that passengers were allowed to leave the train as usual, and this evening an article appeared on The Guardian site entitled ‘Train affected by lion ‘sighting’. It stated:

Inspector Carlton Young, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We’ve had unconfirmed reports of a lion or a lion cub in the area. We’ve had officers looking around. At the moment we’ve had nothing confirmed and we’ve not located anyone who is claiming to have lost an animal.”

Officers believe the woman – who claimed to have seen a lion on Penistone Road, Shepley – was a genuine caller. Around 12 officers were dispatched to look for a lion along with a police helicopter.

Insp Young added that the search would be resumed on Monday if there were any more reports.

It’s not unusual for people to think they’ve seen something that looks like a big cat. It happens quite often and I have blogged before about my research into a case of such a thing happening in Wiltshire recently.

Often the reports of big cats are misidentifications of other animals as big cats, such as large dogs or actual domestic cats (which was the case with the big cat spotted in the village I grew up in. A photo taken of a cat in a field that was reported to be a panther was actually a domestic cat), or sometimes the cats can be actual big cats that may have escaped or been illegally released from a private collection.

The interesting thing that happens once these cases hit the newspapers though is a sort of echo effect that sees people interpret something they see as a big cat when they normally wouldn’t have done. The recent case of ‘The beast of Trowbridge was a great example of this.

I myself fell victim to the echo effect created by the reporting of The Beast of Trowbridge after seeing a black animal running along the canal near my home, I remember being so shocked I couldn’t move as I thought ‘oh my god! I’ve seen the cat!‘. A few seconds passed and the ‘cat’ came back into my view and I realised it was actually a black whippet off of its lead. I haven’t ever been as scared as I was in those few moments. Had I not stuck around to see it again and recognise it as a whippet I would probably still believe I had seen a panther yards from my home.

I am not denying that there are big cats in the wilds of England, in fact it’s very likely that there are, however there is also no denying that the way that cat sightings are reported in the media has a lot to do with the amount of cat sightings that are reported. Not only that, but I can remember a ten year old Hayley Stevens being terrified of going outside after it was reported in the local paper that a panther had been captured on camera in the village she grew up in…

p.s. don’t panic. IF a big cat is out there, they’re usually quite elusive creatures that wont bother you unless you bother them or make them feel threatened. Big cats also have large territories, so several sightings could actually be just one cat rather than loads.


Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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