The eyes of a Wolf always see straight into your soul ...

...You can't hide the truth from them


Please visit the main site - www.wolf-photography.com


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Your Veterans need YOU ....

British Armed Forces Veterans that are incapable of paid work owing to mental and/or physical disabilities are in the process of being changed over to Employment Support Allowance from Incapacity Benefit.  Incapacity Benefit claims are being phased out.

Many of these men and women are incapable of work because of their service related disabilities.  They risked their lives to do their duty but also paid their taxes and National Insurance contributions to ensure that, should circumstances warrant it, they would be able to claim state benefits - particularly for ill health.

Incapacity Benefit (ICB) was one of these Contribution based benefits.  It could be claimed to beyond retirement age if the claimant met the criteria.  Employment Support Allowance (ESA) has replaced ICB and it is limited to a 12 month period, after which it changes to a 'Means Tested' benefit.  This means that should a Veteran in receipt of a War Disablement Pension claim Means Tested Employment Support Allowance, they will lose most of that benefit - an average of £469 every 4 weeks.

Many of the Veterans in receipt of a War Disablement Pension suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The loss of income and being forced outside of their homes to attend meetings at Job Centres is cruel and is causing more levels of anxiety, stress and depression amongst the Veterans' community which is in turn having a further negative impact on top of their already serious mental health problems .  No Veteran in receipt of a War Disablement Pension could have successfully qualified for it without good medical evidence backing up the claim.

Veterans number less than 1% of the populace.  The sacrifices they made affect at least 99% of the population.  Please support them by signing the petition on:  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42837 and give them some peace and dignity.  We need at least 10,000 signatures for the matter to be brought before parliament, so let's try and make democracy work for them.

If you know of a Veteran that needs some support during an assessment for their ESA claim, please refer them to: http://www.wolf-photography.com/html/PTSD/Incapacity%20.html

Thank you.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Misuse of Armed Forces Personnel ...

Have you served in the armed forces of the UK or the USA?

Have you ever been in a position where you had doubts about your duties or the reason for your presence in an area of operations?  I know I did  ... and that it lead me to eventually leave the armed forces.  My particular area of concern resulted from inconsistencies between our over all objective in Northern Ireland and the actions that some of my senior officers took on the ground.  A lot of this is covered by the Official Secrets Act, so it isn't prudent for me to elaborate further.  But ... it leaves a feeling of doubt and if you were an intelligent operative, you may have made certain observations for yourselves ... and come to certain conclusions.

What's my point?  I have often felt that 'Democracy' is a toy ... a lie given to the masses to make you feel that you have a say in what happens in the world;  that there is very little 'free' and honest press on the Earth that isn't controlled by commerce and governments; and that we as members of the armed forces (people that believe in values such as honour and truth) that were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, were lied to.

We were used to further political and material causes where warfare wasn't the last option.

It therefore saddens me when I sit amongst other Veterans and hear the hatred and racism hurled at soldiers etc from countries that we have been in conflict with.  I will now qualify the term soldier from my perspective:  a person that wears a uniform, conducts him/herself in accordance with certain legal frameworks (eg the Geneva Convention, Human Rights and International Law) and isn't a blood thirsty bully but rather can exercise an element of self control and perhaps show mercy in appropriate circumstances.  The truth of it is that the soldiers from the other side were probably lied to as well.  We were all 'cannon fodder' which probably explains why we're treated so badly in the UK if we have the audacity to fight the daily fight against conditions like PTSD.  We're stigmatised, ostracised, isolated and left unsupported ... and should we have the courage to keep fighting that internal battle and walk tall ... they'll say, 'there's nothing wrong with him/her.'

If you're a Veteran and you have hatred in your soul for other soldiers as defined above, you need to let it go.  If it needs a place to sit, it should be with the politicans that sent us to war when war wasn't the only option ... and when lies were told to justify certain invasions.

The situation in Palestine is a good eye opener if you want to learn more about foreign policy or bullying on an international scale.  A situation that should have been resolved years ago ... yet is still allowed to continue because of politics and secret deals in the halls of power.

The deaths and wounds of every combatant and civillian killed in wars are the responsibility of the governments that caused them ... and should be burned into their conscience.

This video is very enlightening - it filled in a few gaps for me and made sense of internal feelings and experiences as a Veteran.  I hope that you will watch it and come to realise that all is not as it seems in the 'democratic world' and that commercialism is a bigger threat to the stability and survival of the free world than terrorism.

From my own experiences I can add that the USA sent a lot of funding into Northern Ireland via NORAID while President Reagan declared America's war on terrorism.  Was any of that money used to fund acts of terrorism?  You can find out if you really want to ... you just have to dig a little.

Nothing is as it seems in the world of politics ... and we, the casualties, battle on for understanding and acceptance.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Autumn...time to evaluate

I got my 'mental victory' with Shodan this year and it's time to set another goal.

I sometimes wonder how much control I really have over the paths I walk.  There's always a choice ... and ultimately I can always say 'no' - which is something that I'm not afraid to do.

Wolf Photography started as Wolf1964 in 2002.  Originally the company was setup to sell photography.  I was living in Cornwall then; a beautiful place where the energy of the Earth was easier to access and creativity flowed.  I'd had a couple of exhibitions in the County and had developed a following and made a regular income from my photography.

Unfortunately, certain factions made it impossible to continue living there and I moved back to the Midlands in 2007.  The decision wasn't taken lightly and my children were involved in the process.  They could both see that one person in particular was making life very difficult for me and that I had to get away.

I continued with my photography but wasn't able to make any contacts because my condition (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD) had worsened and I was having great difficulty coping with the condition.  They say moving house is supposed to be stressful ... but I wasn't prepared for the extra levels of difficulty that I experienced on this particular move.  I found myself mentoring some photographry enthusiasts that I met along the way, particularly other disabled photographers with mental health problems, so I started to develop resources to assist them.

I experienced  a complete breakdown of support mechanisms from the NHS and Social Services and became very isolated.  Out of the isolation and subsequent anger another level of creativity was set free: my poetry.  I'd been writing since joining the Royal Air Force.  I can still laugh at some of the juvenille stuff that would probably make it to the category of 'love-sick-juvenille' ... but then it changed in 1983 to feelings, thoughts and expressions that were building up inside me from serving in Northern Ireland.  I released Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran in 2010.  I don't remember sitting down and consciously saying, 'I want to write a book'.

Before selling my photography commercially, I used to load them up for anyone to download on 'Webshots' ... until two friends that worked in the NHS told  me that I should be selling these images and that they would like to buy some.  I remember being home off work sick with the flu and writing the first website between bouts of fevered sleep.  The same happened with my poetry;  many people had seen it and said I should be published.  Poetry's a very personal form of expression though and I was always unsure about exposing my soul to the public.  The anger caused by the NHS and social Services got the better of me and I put the first book together.  I didn't want to use a publisher though as I wanted total control over my work because I've lost faith in the commercial machine and people where money is involved.  Society had become less honourable, less honest and more greedy.  There were now more people willing to step on each other and steal ideas rather than work honourably and network with each other properly.  Common decency was, and still is,  in decline.  So I setup 'SnowMoon Wolf' as a publishing company.  SnowMoon Wolf is the 'medicine name' that was given to me by a teacher of the old ways.

Some time during 2010 I found myself walking a different path with regards to my art.  Profit was never top of the agenda.  I was happy as long as I could finance the act of creating my art.  I became aware of how powerful a medicine creativity was in helping me to cope with my disability and I wanted to share that with other people that are disabled artists.  In the later part of the year 'Wolf Photography' became a 'Not For Profit' company.  I decided that the primary aim was to inspire, motivate and assist other artists and disabled artists by setting up various resources for them to use.  the services were supplied under a 'Moral Contract' - which simply meant that if they found something of use that they could use, they could purchase a book or a print to continue to help fund the project - providing they could afford it.

In 2011 I became aware of the different levels of Intellectual Property (IP) abuse that take place and put together a resource for artists to help them protect their creations under the heading RespectIP!  It provides tips and techniques on how to protect your IP and helps to make you aware of companies that abuse IP, as well as those that assume full rights to your IP and use it any way they see fit without paying you a penny.

The more I delved into the world of publishing, the more I likened the scenario to swimming in 'shark infested waters'.  People wanted money for tasks that hardly take any time and effort; in short they were preying on our ignorance ... charging rediculous amounts of money for things that we could do for ourselves in a matter of minutes with some guidance.  I refined my publishing methods whilst preparing my second volume of poetry (The Way of the Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran) and released a book to assist people to self publish their own printed and digital books:  SnowMoon Wolf's guide to Self Publishing.  It's a small title and very cheap but every now and then I can make it available for no charge through Amazon Kindle.

In 2012 I setup a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) section to my site to further help artists to hep them to promote themselves on the internet.  Having a website is fine but we need to make ourselves searchable - primarily on 'Google' as it's the primary search engine on the globe.  This section of the website gives people some hints on how to setup their web pages to make it easier to climb the Google ladder.

I also setup a series of free presentations and workshops for different sorts of groups. They cover everything from presentations on my photography to enabling sessions for aspiring travel and wildlife photographers ... and advice sessions on how to protect your Intellectual Property.

Apart from the above, work is continuing on the exhibition that will take place in November 2013 entitled 'Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder'. I started putting together plans for the exhibition a few years ago and have a really good feeling about it.

The project feels 'right' now ... and complete.  According to the teachings of some Native American (or First Nations people) the 'medicine' of the Wolf is that of Protector, Pathfinder and Teacher. All of these elements are reflected on the website now,  with it a new-found purpose that allows me to contribute something to the greater good.

I've never had an arts grant or any other form of financial assistance for this project.  Everything is self financed.  So, if you have ever purchased any of my art or poetry ... thank you ... because you made all this possible.

I'll continue to develop my art personally and professionally ... and hope to take others along the path with me ... even though we may never actually meet in person.


Villayat 'SnowMoon Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Sunday, 23 September 2012


My grading for Shodan took place yesterday at Barnsley (many thanks to the people responsible for organising the day).

After hearing the result from Sensei Andy Sherry that I'd made the grade of Shodan, I felt 'light' in mind, body and spirit.  An odd sensation.  I can't remember having felt that combination ... but my short term memory isn't the most reliable.

I've been mulling over the events of that day( and the build up to the grading) since getting back home last night.  The previous blog post outlines some of the deeper issues, so I won't bore you with repetition.

That grading has been my over riding goal for the past two years.  Perhaps it was an idea of revenge against those events of 1995 that stopped me going for Shodan then, that put my life into a complete spin; spurring me on ... not allowing myself to give up on the goal - putting up with the pain and other hurdles that came my way.

I woke up in agony today ... feeling confused and empty.  The goal had been reached and I asked myself, 'What now?'

It made me realise something else about Karate ... it's not just a safety catch against violent action ... it's become a way of life again, as it was in the early 1990s for me.  The emptiness isn't there now because it's been filled with the next goal: Nidan.  The journey to Shodan brought me to Dojo that is 'home' in some way that I can't clearly describe yet.  The support from my fellow Karatekas and Sensei has been tremendous. 

So many people put up barriers against people with mental health issues ... I've found nothing of the sort here ... just camaraderie, mutual respect and support.

My thanks to you all.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mental Vs Physical ... the constant internal battle in the Dojo ...

I remember becoming aware of a fact with regards to disability a few years ago:

I was working in the CAB Service as a Tribunal Representative and my caseload was diverse; I was working on physical and mental health related cases and something became apparent:

If you have a mental health problem, there's a good chance that you will develop some kind of physical health problem if the condition keeps you isolated and stops you being as active as you used to be.

If you have a physical health problem and are restricted from your normal level of mobility or are afflicted with chronic pain, there's a chance that you may develop some kind of mental health problem.

Those of you that work in related areas should be able to confirm the above if you listen to the people that live with these issues.

At the time I knew that something was wrong with me stress wise but I was still managing to work and ignore it because I was losing myself in my work and doing a lot of training at the Newquay Shotokan Karate Club.  I'd manage to forget those messages from the back of my mind that kept saying. 'You're like that' or 'You get like that when you think about serving in Northern Ireland' and focussed on doing the job.

I started getting ready for my Shodan grading in 1994, training with Sensei Ed Stark.  I'd moved to Bristol to support my soon to be born Son, when I was involved in a serious car accident.  I'd been hit by a stolen car that was speeding at 50MPH  - I was stationary over the other side of a hump backed bridge ... and I can still hear the collision and ... the glass tinkling to the ground and the groan of metal on metal.  My son was a baby at the time (now a 6ft 2 inch 16 year old midget) ... I remember thinking sometime later - 'Child seats are brilliant and they work!'  The medical team looking after me say I was lucky to survive as there were no head rests in the car - A Ford Escort Mk2.  They also said that my fitness through Karate had saved me.

Sensei Ed Stark
The accident broke that last chain of defence against my internal battle against Stress because I couldn't train at the Dojo anymore owing to physical pain.  I tried ... I went back and it felt like every punch was tearing the tissue around the injury sites around my back, neck and shoulder.  I had to stop.  I tried to return to Shotokan Karate a couple of times again and kept trying to train periodically ... but I couldn't maintain anything consistent because of the physical injuries.  Ed was very supportive and realistic about the situation.  Five months after the road accident I started having more flashbacks and nightmares around my time in Northern Ireland ... this lead to a formal diagnosis of service related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I started training regularly again  a couple of years ago.  It still hurts and affects my mobility for a couple of days after a training session.  Disability with Veterans can be a complicated issue.  For myself there's a constant tug-of-war as the body will keep going until it can't do anymore.  The last Karate event that I helped at caused a lack of mobility and raised pain levels that lasted for four days.  If you saw me walking down the street, you probably wouldn't suspect there was anything wrong with me, unless you have experience of observing certain mobility problems.  My pain specialist advised me to stop Karate but I need a mental victory over myself and over that road accident.

After moving back to the Midlands, I was lucky to find a teacher that understands these issues:  Sensei Dudley Wheatcroft at Satori Shotokan Karate Club. Dudley encourages me and knows when to push me.  He knows I give a 110% every session, as I've always done in any dojo.  Unfortunately some of the moves are getting harder and my body can't do them now ... luckily they're not a part of the grading syllabus. Certain combinations of moves and stance cause a lot of pain and the body feels 'wobbly' and I get spasms of fresh pain ... and yet it's beneficial in my fight against PTSD.  Another problem is the short term memory loss.  There have been a few changes in Kata and the body sometimes fights the mind because 'muscle memory' wants to take the body in a certain direction and the mind wants the body to do something different which sometimes leads to a 'lock out' and the body doesn't move.

Sensei Dudley Wheatcroft with the late Sensei Enoeda

I went for my grading for Shodan three months ago but made the mistake of driving up to Kendall from Nottingham which is a four hour drive.  It was also a busy grading and our section didn't start until 4:30pm.  By then my body had locked up with pain and a lot of moves were difficult.  I passed the Kihon (basics) and Kumite (sparring).  I have to retake the Kata element of the grading though.

(left) Sensei Andy Sherry, me and (right) Sensei Frank Brenan at Chesterfield

I'll be trying again soon ... on the 23rd September 2012.  I just have to pass the Kata element.  If I pass the grading exam, I can start learning more on a different level.

In my opinion the mental and physical discipline of the dojo, combined with memory work entailed in learning new techniques, combinations and Kata can help you to cope with a mental health condition.  Why not log onto the Karate Union of Great Britain's website and find a dojo (training hall) near you.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Another Brick in the Wall ...

Working on a project can solidify your defenses because your attention is being diverted from your day-to-day struggle with your disability or difficulties.  The important thing is to monitor yourself closely and ensure that you don't over stretch yourself in terms of your energy and health.

We never know what path we're going to find ourselves on in the future.  I remember writing something to the effect that 'I'm just tucking in my elbows and knees in and flowing with the rapids'.  I had been retired on ill health in 2006 and had disappeared to photograph Polar Bears in Canada and as I watched two males sparring on the frozen tundra, I remembered how I felt ... ALIVE!

Society has expectatitons of us to be people that always plan our careers and strive for excellence ... and I agree with being motivated ... but sometimes we need to be still within ourselves and let ourselves go with the flow.  We can make our own plans and live our lives a certain way but the Universe seems to have a way of bringing us to where it wants us to be.

I was having accupuncture for my physical pain earlier today and I always meditate on such matters during the silence of the treatment.  I looked at how I enjoyed photography as a youth; my photos of friends and family were always good!  There were very few photos of me smiling though ... the fake smiles hid the reality of a difficult childhood.

I remember enjoying photography in my off duty hours while I served in the Royal Air Force.  I remember stopping my photography after a little time in Northern Ireland as my emotions were confined to a box and buried deeper than Blackbeard's cod piece ... and I remember the days when the flame reignited my passion for the art in Cornwall.  I suppose it was inevitable when you look at the beauty of the land and the Ocean down there.

Photography became my secondary occupation while I worked for the NHS in Cornwall but now it's a part of the project that keeps me active, involved and sane.

Then came the poetry: an outlet for emotions, good and bad.  Written in a simple way by a simple soul to be accessible for anyone without pomp or me disappearing up my own @rse over it.  I still remember how vulnerable I felt over the release of the first book 'Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran'.  I was so stressed out  because I'd opened up my soul and out it under a microscope.  Why?  Pure anger.  I was so angered at the way that Social Services and the NHS in Nottingham had treated me when I moved into the area after leaving Cornwall.  The anger was balanced out with some romantic poetry, as well as some memories of my service in RAF - but guess what the main reason was for writing the book?  To raise awareness of how a Veteran that has PTSD feels about life, about his treatment at the hands of the system and the injustice of it all ... and in raising awareness there lies the hope that maybe Joe Bloggs coming back from Afghanistan or some other conflict won't be treated as badly as me.

My second book 'The Way of the Wolf  - Poetry of a Veteran' continues the story and touches on the racism experienced while serving in the RAF Police and then the Metropolitan Police.  It also explores lighter and happier moments ... but I don't feel as vulnerable as I did after releasing the first title.

One point I'd like to make here though is this:  While we focus on people coming back from current conflicts, there are still many Veterans from WW2 onwards that still haven't received any help from the system ... that face their internal battles every day ... alone.

While working in the Citizen's Advice Bureaux Service for ten years I delivered training over a range of subjects.  I took this skill forward to the NHS.  I am now working on delivering workshops to raise awareness of PTSD and to demostrate certain coping mechanisms.

The project I now work on is simple and has three aims:

  • To demonstrate the use of creative therapies as a coping mechanism for PTSD.
  • To educate disabled artists about their Intellectual Property rights.
  • To raise awareness of the condition, PTSD, so that people can recognise the symptoms and see appropriate help.
So here I am, pulling it all together ... all my expereinces, all of my skills and managing my disabilities achieve my objectives.

I designed new business cards and postcards last week and they arrived by courier today.   The project feels like it has begun now.

You can read about the forthcoming exhibition by clicking here.

I fund my work through selling my books and photographic art.  If you'd like to help me ... buy something from www.wolf-photography.com and please submit reviews and testimonails.  They all help.

Have a lovely Wednesday eveing.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Current writing projects ...

I started writing a novel based on my experiences but it's really slow going.  I know that I often avoid writing it because of the associated memories and traumas of my earlier life.  I'm not happy with the title either but it'll all happen when it's supposed to and there's no sense in getting stressed over it time wise.

The second title on the go is 'Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder'.  It's a guide of different ideas and coping mechanisms from my viewpoint.  I'll be sharing some Native Amercian (First Nations)) medicine in the title and touching on quite a varied toolkit.

The third title is my third volume of poetry:  Soul of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran (ISBN 9780956488596).  I already have the cover visualised in my mind's eye and have registered the ISBN with Neilsen tonight.

Here's a sneak peak  - the image is just for the web (my friend Derek asked me to post an image of the roses I've been growing - here it is mate!):

Keep an eye on http://www.facebook.com/snowmoonwolf for updates or follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SnowMoonWolf.

All the best


Saturday, 14 July 2012

My garden in July ...

I've just had a walk around my garden.  It's been raining on and off again and the tempratures have still been warm enough to promote growth.

The Buddleia have all flowered, though the largest bush has only just started.  There's a worrying lack of bees and butterflies in the area though.  This time last year the garden was full of insect life.  I'm lucky if I see ten bees a day now.  I haven't seen any butterflies for a few days now.

The special rose that I put my energy into has quite a few more rosebuds and two semi open roses.  The scent is exquisite.  I was hoping to be able to share them with someone special but it hasn't happened ...yet.

The other roses, white, yellows. pinks and reds are all doing well and the climbing roses will have to be trained further round the frames.

The Virginia Creepers are all doing well.  The two new members of the garden have reached the house wall now from their pots and should start their journeys to cover the side of the house.

I have only one piece of fruit in the garden - a cherry that I've been watching as it grew green, turned yellow and finally red.  I'm guessing that it isn't ripe enough to eat yet.  I'm watching it daily in the hope of beating the squirrels and birds to it!

The bird feeders are mainly empty as there is so much natural food out there for them at the moment.  I'm sure it's better for them.  Once Autumn approaches, I'll load them up again.  I can still see all the different species using the garden as they forage for food in the trees and plants.  I've seen more Thrushes than ever before here.

The Water Mint has gone mad!  It's growing high and strong - long may it continue.  I love rubbing my fingers on a leaf for a sniff.  It smells beautiful.  There is some regular cooking Mint too, Roesmary, Sage and Thyme as well.

The Fuschia that seemed to have died off last winter has not only bushed back but has started flowering.  It's a great lesson in never giving up hope.

The Olive Tree has made a comeback.  It seemed to have suffered since the Winter before last but there's lots of new growth on there now and I'm wondering if I'll get any olives this year.

There's no sign of the beautiful Frog that I saw in the Spring or the little Toad.  I'm hoping that they're still alive and around.  There are plenty of insects and slugs around for them to eat.  There's still no sign of any Newts.

I spotted a young Sparrowhawk circling over the garden the other morning, crying excitedly as if to announce the fact that it could fly and hunt.  I suspect it will learn to hunt silently like the adults soon when it gets hungrier.

The Wysteria is growing at a grand rate.  One stem has nearly reached half way accross the garden to the trellis.  I'll tie that off soon.  The bamboo frame will be covered by the Autumn and I can't wait to see the display of flowers there next Spring.  The scent automatically reminds me of Italy.

The front garden is wild now and the various grasses and weeds that those yellow and black striped caterpillars need will be a plenty.  I'll trim that area down when they disappear.  Next year's project is to make a rockery in the front garden.

There's no sign of any use around the Bat box and I've made a note to myself that I'll have three Bee boxes in the garden by Winter.

The evening fills me with a sense of peace when the daylight disappears and the lighting comes on; I visibly relax into the energy of the Garden.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

European Bee Eaters in Italy ...

This species has been on my list of beautiful animals to photograph for about three years now.  I've tried to make contact with a few people that have photographed them over the years ... but, sadly, never received a response that was helpful.

I was in Italy again the week before last.  My friends had told me that they would be introducing me to a friend of a friend who was a bird photographer.  As I was using a budget airline with hand baggage only, I packed some light combats in case I got to go and do some photography with the guy.

I met the guy on the Wednesday, Loui, an Italian Air Force Veteran ... and what's the first thing he says?  'Did I want to see a European Bee Eater colony?'  My response, after picking my jaw off the deck, was 'Ohhh Yes!'

So started a new friendship and two difficult days of photography.  The temprature ranged between 38C to 40C by the second day.  I had a couple of shots that were usable on day one but nothing compared to what I may have gotten if I had my full kit with me.

Loui was busy with other projects and dropped me in the zone, coming back periodically with water so I could hydrate again and again ... and again!  My combats were drenched with sweat by the end of day one and I was at the limit of my body pain threshold by day two ... which wasn't good when added to only having about three hours of sleep in the time I was away on this trip.

It was worth it though!  Day one was mainly a recce to watch how these birds fly, communicate and hunt.  I was very surprised to see that they act more like a tactical squadron of an air force than any other bird species that I've observed to date.  After delivering the food to the nests, the birds would all fly off together to hunt more insects (bees, beetles, butterflies, dragonflies and damsel flies).

One bird would come back before the others and reconnoiture the nesting area, while constantly communicating with the other birds, then they'd all start coming back in and rest in the trees for a little while before delivering the food and heading off again.  

Some birds with bigger prey would sit for longer in the trees and I wondered if they were displaying their catch to other members of the colony with some sense of pride.

As the wind shifted, their flying skills were taxed, particularly around the different plant life that was scattered on approach path to their nesting holes.

 Exiting their nesting holes was a more straight forward task, following a quick peek to make sure no predators were around.

You can view the whole set of images here.

My sincere thanks to Loui for taking me to the colony!

All the best


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Are you helping to kill Photography as a profession?

Do you take photographs and give them away for free by posting them onto websites and social networking sites?

Do you enter competitions that state that once the image has been submitted, the organisers are free to use the image as they please by assuming rights to it or through some form of collective licensing?  You won't know unless you read the small print.

Are you a keen photographer or photography student that attends events and hands the images from the day over to the organiser in exchange for free entrance or the promise of paid work in the future?

Are you a business that wants good quality, creative images but refuse to pay for them?

Are you a new presence on the photography scene and looking to get yourself 'known' and allowing businesses to use your images for free?

Are you a photography student that allows your academic facility use of your images without being consulted on your Intellectual Property rights?

If you are identified in any of the above groups, not only are you killing the profession of photography but you're also taking bread off the table of people trying to earn an honest crust.

If you want to get into photography as a profession:
Learn about your Intellectual Property rights.
Never give your images away for free, sell prints or license the images for publications and/or web usage.
Only enter photography competitions that respect your Intellectual Property rights (see ABoR).
As a Photography Student be aware that your images are covered by copyright as soon as you create them and no one can use them without YOUR permission - including your educational establishments.

If you're not interested in photography as a profession and just like the kudos:
Please stop killing photography as a profession by flooding websites with free imagesIf you're not interested in earning money for yourself,  use the image to generate funds for your favourite charity, educational fund for your children, holiday funds for a trip around the world or a chastitly belt for your Aunt Flo ... just please stop destroying photography as a profession?

RespectIP is a free resource provided by Wolf Photography.  Its purpose is to enable photographers and other creatives to learn the basics about their Intellectual Property rights and to provide some practical guides and forms that are necessary in some areas of photography (eg draft licence and model/property release forms).  There is also a section on how to protect your images online and a safe and easy way to promote your images on your own website with a view to selling them as prints or making them available for viewing in order to secure licensing contracts.

Keep your work protected, keep the profession alive and know your Intellectual Property rights.

Happy Sunday.

PS If you're worried about your images being used elsewhere on Facebook, go to 'Account Settings' and click on 'Facebook Adverts' - Where it says 'If we allow this in the future, show my information to' - Select 'No one'.  Also set your images so that they can only be seen by 'Friends' and not 'Public'.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Exhibition: Living with PTSD ...

I’m a British Armed Forces Veteran.  I was ignorant of the fact that I had contracted Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the course of my duties at the age of nineteen in 1983.  I wasn’t screened for PTSD when I left the Armed Forces in 1985.

It was another twelve years before a diagnosis was made, following a serious Road Traffic Accident that I was lucky to survive.  I can only describe that twelve year period as ‘Hell’.

PTSD can be very debilitating and I was eventually retired on ill health in 2006.  I have worked on three things since then:

  • My Photography
  • My Poetry
  • Raising awareness of PTSD in Veterans

I’ve been taking photographs with an SLR camera since 1981.  It was my way of relaxing when I was off duty in the Royal Air Force.  In 2006 I realised just how much of an important coping mechanism photography is for me.

It gives my life purpose and helps me to be able to leave the confines of my home and venture out alone to places in different areas and other countries.

This exhibition uses poetry to show the contrast between the pain and torment that I experience with PTSD and the powerful healing medicine of nature through photography. 

Photography became my therapy and enabled me to connect with the Earth in a very deep way.  I’ve been lucky enough to see some wonderful sights.


To demonstrate the use of creative therapies as a coping mechanism for PTSD.

To educate disabled artists about their Intellectual Property rights.

To raise awareness of the condition, PTSD, so that people can recognise the symptoms and seek appropriate help.

To exhibit 13 prints and 13 poems.
To hold three workshops during the course of the exhibition:

  • For Veterans and people related to or in relationships with Veterans to explore the issues from both their perspectives in an open forum.

  • For disabled artists to learn how to promote their photography on the internet without falling prey to people/companies that don’t respect their Intellectual Property rights.

  • For trainee or practising counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, GPs and support/customer services staff.  Covering issues such as setting up a ‘Veteran friendly’ interview environment and how to deal with Veterans displaying verbal or physical aggression.

To provide signposting for people seeking support or treatment related to PTSD through leaflets etc.

Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery
2 Wellington Street, Leicester LE1 6HL

The exhibition will go up on 4th November 2013 and be taken down on 2nd December 2013.  The exhibition will be open for public viewing  from 5th November to 30th November 2013 inclusive.

Fundraising for the exhibition
The main source of funding will be through the sale of photographic prints and from my poetry books.  If you would like to help support my aims, please purchase my books and prints.  

The books are:

The prints are in 5 categories:

A Percentage of any profits will be donated to Combat Stress to be used by the Occupational Therapy department to enable other Veterans to use some form of Art as a therapeutic coping mechanism for living with PTSD.
I hope that you'll support my project and tell other people about it through Facebook, Twitter etc and email.

I need your help, so please get involved.

Periodic updates will be posted here on Blogger, Facebook and Twitter


Villayat 'SnowMoon Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 22 June 2012

Gadgeticulous ...

Do you like gadgets on your blog or website? I love 'em!  Okay it isn't cool to plaster them all over your website as it can end up looking tacky rather than professional ... but you can fart around on your blog to your heart's content.

I go through phases of using certain things and dropping them - it's just a way of putting something else on other than your own content that people might find interesting or amusing.  Some are there for verification, so only need to be there temporarily.  Others serve a purpose and have a permanent presence.

So, I'm going to tell you about the things I use as you may find them useful yourself.

'Google Translate' might not give a 100% effective translation in all languages because of the different styles of grammar in all the languages it supports ... but it gives other people from other countries an idea of what you're writing about.  It'd be interesting to hear if it's ever provided a translation that was way off and ended up supplying a translation that was the opposite of the intended message and caused offence.  You can get it here.

'Follow by email'.  Does it work?  Does anyone ever use it?  Who knows?!  It doesn't take my more than a few seconds to setup though and is one of the modular options provided by 'Blogger', so go look at 'Design' in your blogger settings and you'll see it there.

'Search this blog' could be useful if you've been blogging a while and people want to search through past entries for something specific.  Again, it's one of the modules on Blogger.

'Blog Archive' is a must.  It's handy for me to see what I've been doing as well.  I have a short term memory problem and there's nothing worse than repetition.  You'll find in the Blogger modules.

'Followers' is an interesting module and a potential source of networking that's supplied in Blogger.

If you have followers then I feel it's necessary to have the 'About me' module from Blogger, so you can tell people about yourself.

People will also want to know what blogs you follow.  I tend to use this as a networking tool AND as an SEO tool.  It's important to follow blogs you like and show mutual support ... but it's also important to follow bloggers that also write frequently (at least once a week).  You'll find this under blogger's modules.

HTML/JavaScript is a very useful module.  You can add just about any gadget off the web with this.  I've used it to setup links for my Facebook Pages relelvant to work and work related projects and Twitter.  I've also setup the blog on an app in Facebook called 'Networked Blogs'.  If you set it up correctly, you just update your blog and it will automatically submit the article to your Facebook and Twitter pages for you.

I love the Moon!  It took me a long time of self exploration (not the under the sheets kind) to find out that I had a pattern that relates to the moon.  So it's handy for me to know the Moon's phases in relation to the Earth.  Having it on my blog means I can check it out anytime and know where She is.

I used to have 'Flag Counter' on my website and I might put it back up again as I LOVE seeing what people from which countries are interacting with my website and blog.  I remember it becoming a bit of a pain for some reason but it might be ok now.

'Blog Archive' is a must.  It's handy for me to see what I've been doing as well.  I have a short term memory problem and there's nothing worse than repetition (just testing if you're awake!).

Last but not least is the 'Networked Blogs' verification box which can be removed once your blog is confirmed by 6 people.

There's so much out there to play with  ... enjoy!


Do you ignore friends that are having a hard time with a mental health condition?

I guess we all do it at some time, dependent on how close a friend the other person is and what our energy levels are like at the time.

I prefer the honest approach of 'I'm sorry but I can't deal with this right now.  I'm a bit pre-occupied with my own issues.'  There's nothing wrong in saying this.  It's honest but it doesn't say 'I'm cutting my ties with you'.

The other side of the coin is that there are people that will break communications with you through fear based on stigma.  If that's the case, are they the sort of friend that you needed in the first place?

Friendships require trust and effort, the same as any kind of relationship.  They don't grow on trees.  No one rubbed a lamp to make one appear.

Every now and then I recognise that a friend or acquaintance is in need of some help and support.  I can't give much as I have to balance my own energy and cope with my issues.  I'd never turn my back on them though.

If you know friends that have such issues and are at a low ebb, please, don't ever abandon or ignore them.  Be realistic with your own resources ... but remember that you called them a friend for a reason and they might need your help right now.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Waterstones and profit margins ...

The Way of the Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran has been released and is visibile on Waterstone's website.  You can buy the title from them either in-store or from their website but there will be a delay while the title is printed and shipped to them ... and then to you.

I was having a discussion with one of their managers today with a view to them stocking the title in the stores that sold the first volume (Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran).  Unfortunately, they won't because there is only a 25% discount on the title and they want 50-60%.  Having explained that this is not a profit making venture and that aims of the project are to facilitate an exhibition and raise more awareness of what PTSD does to Veterans had no effect on the decision.  Waterstones have a profit margin policy that they adhere to.  I feel that if I had the same conversation with Amazon today, I probably would have heard the same thing.

The printing and distribution contract was setup with Lightning Source; their minimum discount level for titles to be advertised via their data feed is 20% for the USA and 25% for all other places.  If you go below that level of discount, your title won't be advertised.

So, it comes down to Social Networking and 'word of mouth'.  If you'd like to support my work and help this project by purchasing a copy of the title.  Please buy it from my website if you can ... if you can't pay through Paypal, please try your highstreet or local book store (including Waterstones) and they will order the title in for you.

All the best


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Veterans, relationships and PTSD ...

Relationships in the modern world have evolved into something that I sometimes don't recognise.  I remember when honesty was important and people valued loyalty and honour.

Isolation is a big part of living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In my experience, the more people know about you, the more they seem to store for use against you at a later date, particularly in friendships and relationships.  So the natural defence position is to distance yourself from people that would seek to do me harm on an emotional front.

In order to cope with myself, I had to venture into the darkness of my soul and face my demons; demons borne of necessity, injustice and survival ... and I had to learn to control them and not let them control me.  I'm not always able to manage it ... but I do my best.  I am as vulnerable as I am strong.  Yet I try to live my life and contribute something towards society.  One area that I still have problems with is when someone tries to hurt me emotionally.  My natural defence is to close my heart off and protect it.  It can take a couple of days for the steel shutters to come back down.  Someone recently got very upset with this defence mechanism and thought I was pulling away my positive feelings towards her.

Not many people would choose to become involved with someone that has a mental health condition, let alone one that can make a person react violently to any perceived physical threat or danger.  The danger radar is permanently on and so we react as if we were still on duty, all those years ago.

There are emotional risks too for both parties but they're compounded when you meet someone that doesn't take responsibility for their shortcomings on their own emotional front.  Confidences exchanged in the security of a relationship can become weapons that are sharper than knives and cut your heart on a spiritual level.

I met such a woman two months ago and while I would never name her, I do feel that the circumstances need exploring because it might help you to avoid similar circumstances in the future.

We became very close quite quickly and we didn't live far apart, so we spent quite a bit of time together.  At first she was very honest and said that this was her pattern - she runs whenever she's faced with the thing her heart seeks.  As soon as she got too close to me on an emotional level, she started to subconciously sabotage the relationship and then put the blame for things going wrong at my feet.  This isn't the first time this has happened and you can be as honest as you want with  someone about your life but if your truth isn't respected and counted as valuable, then your truth is a weapon waiting to be used against you.  Unfortunately this behaviour is particularly true of people that don't work on their own issues but spend their lives trying to 'cure' others.

Working on yourself requires courage, facing your demons requires strength and taking a chance to find your heart's desire requires a commitment to your 'self' ... that commitment being that you will continue working on your own issues and that you won't hit a loved one over the head with your baggage.  The baggage handling role is a two-way street and in order for any successful relationship with a sufferer with PTSD there must be an understanding of the condition and an agreed upon mode of behaviour.  Once the basics are in place, you can get on with the good times and hopefully, cope well with the slightly turbulent times, should any arise.

In my experience, the people to watch out for are the one's that use phrases like, 'I feel like I'm walking on egg shells around you' or they suddenly start to critique things you do.  A definite association to avoid is anyone that is reticent to introduce you to their friends and acquaintances.  If you're in a mutually respectful friendship or relationship, that shouldn't be the case.   You should be able to recognise each other's patterns in  time and be honest with each other at times that you need solo space.  It's better to take a breather than end something prematurely that had the potential to become something special.

I'm writing from the perspective of myself ... an open soul that's continually working on himself. So please, don't dump your crap at my door.  I don't mind working with you on your stuff, if you have the courage to do so.  Just don't do what the 'healer' tried to do to me?

If you've been hurt by a previous lover or friend, let the pain go - write about it, sing about it, even rant about it - but only for long enough to get the emotional release out of your system.  I used to talk to the Ocean about my pain - it worked for me ... I felt she heard and understood me.  When you've released the pain, find the courage to forgive them and move on ready to try again with an open heart.


SnowMoon Wolf's Guide to Self-Publishing is now live!

The title is available through Amazon and you can find out more information from my website.

The pricing is minimal and the tips included are worth it.  The title's aimed at people that have some knowledge of how to create word documents and a basic knowledge of html.

All the best


Monday, 11 June 2012

Enabling other writers ...

Do you have a book inside you waiting to burst out?

I've been feeling that way for a while now ... and now I'm two books down the road.  And you know something?  It feels good!  I feel like I'm contributing something again ... something unique.  Poetry's not everyone's thing but I'm not a traditional poet.  My style's my own, sometimes raw, sometime's subtle.  It get's the message out though.

If you have any sort of mental health problem, I recommend trying it as a way of getting your feelings out.  Sometimes there's no one there to talk to and I can just be sat there bubbling over and drowning in my own crap...and then the pen starts writing.  It's like it's writing without awareness.  The words just flow and they act as a conduit for my emotional turmoil.

It's not always turmoil though.  Sometimes I write about love, mainly unrequited, sometimes about that space that exists for other emotions during other activities in my life.

So my third book is for those of you that have a book inside them and want to write it...or those of you that have written something but haven't found a publisher yet.  My advice is simple - publish it yourself!

There are so many ways forward, Amazon Kindle, Ebooks on Waterstones, and distribution channels with companies like Lightning Source.

Don't let your words fester, get your message out there, whatever it may be.

SnowMoon Wolf's guide to Self-Publishing will be released in a day or two with lots of tips and tricks with regard to writing your title, publishing it and publicising it.  It's based on two years of experience in the Self -Publishing game and you might find it useful.  The price tag will be $1 or £1 (the distributor taxes Ebooks though), dependent on where you are.  It'll be useful to writers based anywhere in the world that use the English language.

Why the Wolf on the cover?  Some tribal people from North America  believe that the Wolf is a Pathfinder, Protector and Teacher.

SnowMoon Wolf's Guide to Self-Publishing will be available on Amazon and Waterstones.  I'll post more details when the final checks are made and everything's green for go.

Have a good night,


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Translator application added!

For those of you who wish to read this blog in other languages, a translation app has been added to the blog (top right).  Simply select the language that you would like to read the blog in.



Social Networking ...

Those of you that are interested in raising your profile with regards to your work or art may be interested in a Facebook app called 'Networked Blogs' (type their name in the search bar in Facebook).  Access the application and set it up to automatically link your 'Blogger' entries to Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Give it a go and see if it helps spread the word about your work.



Thursday, 7 June 2012

Paperback version of 'The Way of the Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran' went live today!

With the ISBN: 9780956488527, the title went live on paperback today and is available from various countries.

If you're interested in buying a copy and having a peek into the soul of a wolf, google the ISBN and the title and see where you can get it from.  50 signed copies will be available from my website.

I'll post more information as news becomes available.

The first review is up on Waterstones.

More news to follow.



Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Stretched to breaking point...

Have you ever had one of those weeks when just about everything that can go wrong actually does?

I didn't realise how much extra pressure I've been under lately.  For a few months I've been training hard towards a grading and have been pushing my body too hard.  The result has been an increase of pain levels by about 50%.  I often forget to take note of how this impacts my mental health, as I'm too busy trying to shut out the pain and achieve an objective. 

In addition to that it's been stressful getting things ready for the launch of my second volume of poetry: 'The Way of the Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran'.  The latest hick-up is coding problems in the version that is to be uploaded to Waterstones.  I've spent the day clearing errors and am down to just 1 error and 2 warnings.  The original list was huge!  There's a little publicity arranged for the launch but nothing major.  Independent writers don't have large budgets to call upon and are reliant upon word of mouth and kind hearts.  My heartfelt thanks go out to all the people that have helped and supported me in my writing.  They leave comments now and then and they make me smile because there's an interaction out there; someone wants to read my words and understand what it's like to walk in these moccasins and in turn become more aware of what other veterans may be going through.  These people help me to carry on ... and I'm grateful for their support.

The icing on the cake this week was dropping my camera.  The sigma 50-500 lens broke apart at the neck, leaving part of the mount stuck in the Canon 40D.  Sigma feel that they can repair it - so it's all boxed up and ready to ship.

I was sat with my neighbour Edna this afternoon.  We sit by her back door and talk while drinking tea.  I can have a rolly and keep the smoke out of her house that way and can hear the birds that frequent our gardens.  We both let out whatever was bothering us and it wasn't until that point that I realised just how close I'd been skirting that slippery slope.

Time for bed.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

PTSD & emotional defence mechanisms ...

What happens if someone with an emotional vulnerability feels he or she is being attacked at the point where they are weakest?

You could get any number of different responses but in my case it tends to lead to me shutting down emotionally until I can process what has happened.

I was recently involved with someone who thought that I was purposely closing her out and perhaps trying to punish her by withdrawing my warmth...but it wasn't so.  I tend to be more vulnerable than the average human being in society because of my particular experiences through life.  When subjected to pain, who wouldn't withdraw themselves.  If your hand gets too close to the fire and starts to burn, do you not pull it away?

One of the realities of living with PTSD is that I have a defense mechanism that closes down all my emotions - it's a bit like being surrounded by thick, metal doors.  Nothing gets in or out until I've managed to sort out whatever's just happened. 

If you're in a relationship with a vulnerable person, take care and communicate openly and effectively in a sensetive manner.  It doesn't mean that we've stopped caring for the person that we've had the upset with ... just that we need time to deal with what has happened.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Way of the Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran

Where does the time go?  I released Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran in 2010 and have been working on the next collection of poetry since then.

'The Way of the Wolf' is due for release in May 2012.  I'm working on the finishing touches as you read this blog piece.

One of the aims of this collection is to touch on the issue of racism in the Armed Forces and the Metropolitan Police in London, England.  When I think about my experiences and the incidents that caused me to contract Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I have no doubt that the racism I was subjected to compounded the situations because during certain times, I knew that no one was covering my back - this is more true for the Metropolitan Police (MP) than the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP); although there were the odd incidents there too.

The big difference between the racism I suffered in the RAFP and the MP is that I had mates in the RAFP that had my back and actually brought the racism to a senior officer's attention in Northern Ireland.

I'd love to mention the names of those of the people that helped me in those times of uniform service, the only thing that stops me is the risk of some sort of repercussion towards them in case they're still serving in those sorts of careers.

The book provides an insight into a Veteran's experience of living with PTSD and raises awareness of Asian Veterans who can, if they're not properly supported, disappear between the cracks of white British and Asian culture.  My experiences stem from the 1980s.  A time when joining the Armed Forces or any of the Constabularies could leave you ostracised by Asian communities.  The other side of that coin was just as harsh, as very often, you could be serving with people that didn't want you in their uniform.  You had to work hard to survive in those roles.  From what I hear from some officers in the Metropolitan Police, things haven't altered all that much for Asian or Black officers.

The Way of the Wolf continues to touch on other emotions, some light, on the continual journey of life that hits peaks and troughs.  Writing these words and continuing with my photography allows me a way of trying to balance through the extreme periods and to continue my existence.  It also reflects on the futility of war and hints at the games politicians play with little regard for the members of their Armed Forces.

The immediate aim of both these books is to raise money to carry on with awareness raising work on the difficulties faced by Veterans with PTSD and their loved ones.  This will be done through exhbitions and workshops.  Should there be any profits, some funds will be used to buy materials for the Occupational Therapy units at 'Combat Stress', as part of my work is to raise awareness of the benefits of using creativity to cope with PTSD.

Another area of work is to help disabled artisits to promote and protect their Intellectual Property on the internet and to help them to develop simple ways to sell their art independently and through networks. Please check out 'Respect IP'.  This resource will continue to be updated as and when time and energy allows.  This resource has already helped some new artists to get off the ground.

I hope that you can support the projects by buying the titles and spreading the word about my work.  There are no publicists involved in this project, I only have you to rely upon.

All the best

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 23 April 2012

That ol' familiar feeling ...

I feel like I'm coming out of hibernation from the winter! 

I've spent the last 3 weeks or so working on my garden and have been reacquainting myself with the beings that I share this space with.  It's 'our' home.

So far I've spotted one frog and one toad while extending the water feature.  Both of them seemed to be in good health and didn't seem to bothered at having to shift themselves from the area I was working on.  I don't know if any of the other frogs and toads used the two hibernation shelters and I don't want to risk disturbing them to find out.

I was working in the garden again today and moved some of the plants to the spots where they will stay and sowed a few handfulls of sunflower seeds in the square under the bird feeders.  The robins, coal tits and blue tits seem to have gotten used to my presence as I beavered away at this and that.  Everytime some soil was left uncovered the robins would dart in looking for worms etc.  The blue tits have bred again and I've already seen young ones being fed on the branches of the trees at the rear by their parents.  I also had six juvenille green finches in the other day.  Is it me or are they earlier than usual?  The bullfinches, great tits, sparrows and blackbirds are coming in regularly for food too but I haven't seen the goldfinches for a few days now...and I haven't seen the long tailed tits over the last two weeks.  The last time I saw the sparrowhawk was a month ago as it sat plucking the feathers off a wood pidgeon at the end of the garden.  I haven't seen the thrushes either or the wrens that pop up infrequently.

Many of the plants that I thought had died seem to be pushing new growth through the covering of decaying leaves that I covered them with last autumn.  Only five plants didn't survive.  The wysteria is getting ready to burst into leaf and the virginia creepers are displaying beautifully coloured foliage.  One of the more attractive additions to the collection of bushes is a plant called 'Pacific Nights' ... shiny, dark and aesthetically pleasing.  The climbing rose at the front of the house is thriving!  It was flowering well into winter.

The many showers of rain allowed me to assess the water movement around the garden - from rooftop to water butts and onto the water feature, through to the other end. The whole water feature cascades nicely to the end of the garden, allowing just enough shallow pools to keep the birds interested.  A magpie was skipping around the shallows and over the pebbles today searching for insects.

I wish newts would come in and claim some space!  I used to love watching them swim in my garden in Cornwall.  They look like tiny crocodiles when they swim!

As I moved the plants into place today I felt that energy again  - it's something that I haven't felt since being on the land in Cornwall.  It's as though all of the animals, plants ... and myself have all contributed something here to make the energy of the Universe more tangible in this small space space.  I felt connected and I'm grateful for it.

As the daylight faded, the various solar lights came on and made the space look and feel like an elven paradise.

Tonight I'm content.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Preparing for a possible drought...

The local water board's reported that water levels were very low this year compared to subsequent years.  I'd recommend taking steps now if you are at all concerned about whether you'll have enough to water your plants over the summer.

Hose pipe bans are already in place in some areas.

I re-routed the front drain to the back garden to collect more water into water butts and then connected the butts to each other to store more water using an overflow system.

I compared the 200 litre water butts from Wickes and Wilkos.  The butts cost £24 from Wilkos and Wickes charged the same through their price match policy and reduced the price by another 10%.

Wickes 200 litre water butt
Pros: Holes already present for connecting to other waterbutts.  The apertures being perfect for the range of connectors available from B&Q. There are extra vents on the lids to collect more water and a handy outline to connect up to a down pipe from your roof drain.

Cons: The taps can leak a little at first.  Take care as to how much you tighten them.  It would have been a perfect design had the area for securing the tap inside the butt been a straight surface instead of a curved lump.

Wilkos 200 litre water butt
 Pros: Nice tight fit on the taps - no drips.  Extra vents on the lids allow more water to be collected when raining.

Cons: You have to drill your own holes and the lids are more work re cutting a suitable hole for a down pipe.  This isn't a problem if it's the last butt in a chain collecting water via an overflow.

The water butt stands were cheaper at Wickes - £11.99 compared to Wilkos at £13.99.

A further overflow was setup to push excess water out to trees beyond the garden and to the water feature.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Spring is definitely here ...

I felt good today as I looked out over my garden and saw the blue tits take up residence in their usual breeding box.  The female is already in the box and the male is passing her food.

I also saw two robins. I'm assuming one  of each sex as they were both fully grown with their adult feathers.  One would grab some mealworm from one of the feeders and pass it to his lady and then go back for more gifts.  Very quaint.

There's a lovely array of colour in the garden and I'm very pleased to report that the plants, shrubs and trees have all survived, although some seem a little battered by the frost.  The cherry blossom is in bloom and buds are present on both cherry trees, the apricot and the apple tree. 

The roses have started climbing again, as has my favourite climber whose name I have forgotten!

Looking forward to some beautiful scents this season.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Holistic approaches to PTSD ...

Many people have different ways of treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but ultimately it's the sufferer that has to choose which approach to go with.

Some of the options are:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Creative therapies
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Herbal medication
Martial arts and other exercise
Native American (First Nations)medicine
Spiritual healing
Western medication

The more open-minded you are, the more options you have.  If you believe things like accupuncture and shamanic healing are 'hocus pocus', they probably won't work for you, thereby limiting your treatment options.

My personal feeling is that different approaches offer different elements of medicine and an illness like PTSD has to be tackled on multiple fronts.

I've been getting accupuncture treatment via the NHS now since 1996.   The pain management centre that looks after me had to make service cuts owing to budgetary requirements.  Rather than be honest about the fact that it was a fiscal consideration, the NHS produced a report that states that accupuncture is not beneficial after a period of 2 years.  I have Chronic Pain syndrome and PTSD.  I have been having accupuncture for 16 years now ... and it is still VERY helpful!

If you are in receipt of a war disability pension and there is no NHS service offering accupuncture, you can always write to the Veterans Agency, explain how beneficial the accupuncture is for you and ask them to pay for it. Beeston Accupuncture are an option if you aren't able to access such treatment via the NHS.  Alternatively, type in 'accupunture services' and your town/city to find a service near you.

Such treatments can make your symptoms worse at first, so persevere and give it a go.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT is more about understanding the mechanisms of PTSD, how and why we have certain reactions to sertain sorts of circumstances, and about developing coping mechanisms to counter our normal reactions to those situations.

Counselling gives you the space to sit and discuss your feelings about anything, in confidence, with a non-judgmental, impartial adult.  Some counsellors will be skilled in the use of other therapies on this list.  Isolation is one of the most damaging aspects of PTSD, just being able to sit and talk with someone that you can be open with is invaluable and can act as a release valve.

Unfortunately, the NHS isn't geared up to provide long term counselling.  All of the treatment options will run out in  matter of weeks or months.  Your only option then would be to pay for treatment yourself.  Some counselling services will charge you on a sliding scale dependent on your earnings though (eg Nottingham Counselling Services).  Type in 'counselling services' and your town/city to find a service near you.

Creative therapies 
I find creative therapies to be the most beneficial coping mechanism.  PTSD isn't just a mental health problem.  It can affect your physical being too ... and your 'spirit'.

Photography allows me to go out of my home and explore parts of the world that I would otherwise stay away from.  The joy that I feel when witnessing wildlife is invaluable ... and the joy is multiplied if I am fortunate enough to have captured the moment in the camera.

Writing allows me a way to vent negative feelings or to express positive emotions that would otherwise go unnoticed.  If we don't record the positive as well as the negative, we can lose touch with the fact that the former does still exist in our lives ... and that losing touch with something positive in our lives would be more damaging.

If you end up producing work that you want to publicise or share without giving away your Intellectual Property  rights - go to RespectIP and you'll find various tips to assist you.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a therapy that uses eye movement techniques while  reliving the traumatic moments.  This treatment can be accessed via Trauma therapists and various centres dealing specifically with PTSD.  Your GP may also be able to refer you.

Herbal medication
There are various medicines available that aren't as harmful or addictive as some of the 'western medicines'.  I use the following:
St Johns Wort (for depression related symptoms)
Valerian (for anxiety related symptoms)
Lemon Balm (for general mental well being)
Devils Claw (for pain relief)

You can find all these items at your local health food shop or search for them online.  Always make sure that they don't cause complications with other medication that you are using before taking any.  Also, monitor yourself carefully for allergies or side effects.  If you are using western medicines, consult your GP before purchasing any.

Martial arts and other exercise
One of my fears is hurting someone when reacting to a potentially violent situation.  I get this feeling of a steel door coming down.  It's locking away all emotions.  All that's left then is the target, action and reaction.  The red mist descends and all reason has now passed to a different zone.  This doesn't mean that I'm going to win a fight - it just means that I've said goodbye to life and am ready to die in the fight.

Training in a structured martial art can give you an element of control in a potentially violent situation and allow you to walk away.

Any physical exercise is good for you as it  releases endorphins into your system which help to counter the effects of stress.

Meditation is a powerful tool when.  You can buy CDs of guided meditation from various sources; just search the net for 'guided meditation CD'.

If you attend the 'Combat Stress' centres for treatment, you can get a copy of theirs for a nominal fee.

Native American (First Nations)medicine
One aspect of a human being that the world of western medicine fails to treat is the 'spirit' of the person.  Most people don't know what their spirit is.  They'll have had no awareness or exposure to this concept.  Concept isn't a good word for something that is the basic energy of the Universe.

Trauma wounds the spirit.  When you look at the three areas it can affect (mind. body and spirit) the spirit is the area that can receive the greater wound.

In my experience, a cure isn't possible but I can learn how to live with and compensate for the condition to a degree.  If I was alone all of the time it wouldn't matter as I tend to be kind to myself.  Problems arise when I have to interact with humans that have no consideration for others and are lacking in courteous behaviour.

So I have to find ways of dealing with the exchange of energy that takes place at the more difficult incidents.  There are various ceremonies that can be learned to help one cope - in essence they're all exercises in dealing with the 'self'.  There are various circles and practitioners that offer help in this area.  However, don't be blinded by credentials.  It doesn't matter who they were taught by ... it's whether they can hold the energy for you to allow you to do what needs to be done.

Everything in life has a cycle or a pattern.  One of the tasks should be to explore oneself and chart the events related to condition to find out if there is a monthly cycle attributed to one's moods etc.

One of the most basic methods of clearing one's energy is to 'smudge'.  You can use dried white sage or some other herbs.  I'd start with this though.  To 'smudge', you put a match to the sage and then let it burn for a few seconds.  You then blow out the flame on the sage.  You will see the sage still smokes.  You then use a feather to waft the smoke over the person that you're smudging while holding a thought - that all negative energy is removed from this person and sent somewhere where it cannot hurt anyone or anything.  You can find out more about smudging on http://www.asunam.com/smudge_ceremony.html.

You can buy dried white calafornian sage from http://www.holisticshop.co.uk/products/white-sage-bag.  I advise that you buy the loose leaf variety rather than smudge sticks.  When you think you have extinguished the smudge sticks, they can still be smouldering at the centre and form a fire risk.

Again, do a search for circles near you or contact the Ehama Institute for guidance.

Do remember that there are many tribes with many ways of doing things.  Rather than thinking one is right or wrong, concentrate on finding a path that's right for you.

Spiritual healing
Spiritual Healing is a natural energy therapy that complements conventional medicine by treating the whole person - mind, body and spirit. Healers are thought to act as a conduit for healing energy, the benefits of which can be felt on many levels, including the physical.  Find out more on: http://www.thehealingtrust.org.uk/.

Western Medicine
I refer to prescribed medications as 'Western Medicine'.  I was first prescribed something for PTSD without my knowledge.  I was serving in the Metropolitan Police in London at the time.  The tablets were small and dark green (this was in 1987) and the effect was one of shutting down my 'alert sensors' (it's the only way I can describe it).  Working in any dangerous environment requires you to be very alert.  I remember taking the medication before going on uniformed duty and feeling as described.  when I finished that shift I flushed the tablets down the toilet.

I have since heard all sorts of horror stories from other veterans about the medications they've had. This keeps me away from prescribed medication in the main BUT it might be the right approach for you.  I would ask you to find out as much as you can about the medication before deciding to go down that route.  This is a forum for PTSD sufferers - you may find some useful information there: https://www.ptsdforum.org/c/threads/does-prescription-medication-help-your-ptsd.703/.

Access to these medicines is either via your General Physician or a Psychiatrist.  Your GP should always be your first port of call.  If you have an open minded GP, he/she may have access to the other options detailed above.

I hope that you found something useful here.

All the best


Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
Wolf-Photography.com Stock Image Library