Dear Dubai Ex: Closure

Forgiveness

Last edited: 15th October 2019

NOTE: After all efforts to resolve the situation with my Dubai ex privately and amicably failed, I wrote ‘Dear Dubai Ex’ to publicly ask him to stop his manipulative and controlling behaviour. This post made clear that I was not interested and wished to be left alone. Further attempts to contact me in various ways were made. Police advised me to make my Instagram private, disable blog comments and restrict followers to deal with the situation. It has been a difficult journey but the police in the UK have been very supportive. Coercive control and cyberstalking are unacceptable so if you too find yourself the target, collect evidence of the incidents and reach out for help like I did. You can take back control, move on with your life and rise above. Originally posted on the 4th September, this post has been revised and now represents closure, my farewell to this chapter of my life. Peace.

This post links with In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerHow To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Dear Dubai Ex,

In July I contacted you privately to make peace with you, to apologise for my part and wished you well. It was a sincere act of closure and I felt such a sense of relief, of lifted weight afterwards. I was optimistic that a painful chapter had finally closed. However, you did some things in August and September that worried and alarmed me and the situation needed to stop.

When we entered our relationship – an emotional affair – we did not foresee how badly it would end. We can’t change what’s been said and done. There have been faults on both sides post-break up and matters escalated in a way I’m sure neither of us wanted. I don’t regret standing up to you and telling the truth, but I know it has been hard on all of us. If I could go back in time to that moment, during a school Professional Development day, when you told me you had feelings for me and wanted to initiate an affair, I would in a heartbeat – to tell you to get stuffed and decline your proposal, like I should have done then (but said many times after).

You have every right to feel what you feel; whatever you feel is your entitlement but please respect my requests for no contact, to not be monitored or contacted via fake accounts on social media, and for my poetry – poems I’d made private for various reasons – to not be accessed from my blog without my consent. I could share details and screenshots to prove what I’m saying but I’m not going to do that. It doesn’t solve anything and what other people think or believe is not my business. I heard endless ‘sorries’ from you during our relationship and promises that things would get better; ‘sorry’ becomes meaningless when you hear it so often and the behaviour that called for an apology doesn’t change. Actions speak louder than words. You once told me that one day you would make me hate you. I don’t. I feel no anger or bitterness towards you now. I don’t think you realised that you were being emotionally abusive but ‘I didn’t mean to’ is not an adequate excuse and doesn’t make everything you did OK. You did know, as a married man and my boss, that it was wrong to ask a colleague to have sex with you in your office – especially in Dubai, where adultery is illegal. Even though I did the right thing and refused, you failed to take responsibility and let me be scapegoated when I exposed you. I loved you but did not cross the line by sleeping with you. There should have been no consequences but getting involved with you had a catastrophic impact on my life and career whilst you were protected and praised by the company – who had told me to trust them to deal with you! That was an injustice, hence why I blogged about it – to stand up for myself and prevent you from doing it again – and I’m proud I did so. 

Nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes. Learn and grow from this experience. My agenda with my blog is to help other people by sharing my experiences and feedback from readers has been very positive. Some good has been achieved. Moving forward, focus on your family and your own happiness. Don’t ‘keep tabs’ on what I’m doing in my life. Respectfully, that’s no longer any concern of yours. I haven’t contacted you since mid-August (when I told you to stop, and that I didn’t want to see or speak to you again). I never look you up online. I don’t ‘keep tabs’ on you. I’ve moved on.

My closure email in July should have been the end of it. It was heartfelt and clear in intent but as you have done so many times in the past, you disregarded my wishes and boundaries. Enough was enough. I reported you and closed myself off on social media to resolve the situation. Legal advice regarding coercive control, sexual harassment in the workplace and cyberstalking has been illuminating. I am familiar with the UAE’s defamation laws – instead of investigating my complaint, the company threatened me with defamation to try to silence me. It was a risk I was prepared to take to be heard, as I will never return to Dubai. Libel laws are different in the UK. Knowing I can prove what I’ve said, I have blogged about the detrimental impact of our relationship on me, and its aftermath. I don’t need to explain here just how devastating gaslighting, controlling and manipulative behaviour, and cyberstalking can be. Though I’ve been told I have enough evidence to proceed with a civil case for damages, I have no desire to pursue the matter further. I just want to live my life in peace. Hopefully we now have closure, at last. After four difficult years, I am happily enjoying a new era in my life and, despite everything that happened, I genuinely wish you all the best.

Take care and goodbye B.

Poem I wrote during the relationship. Says it all…

LOVING YOU

Loving you is like

Trying to hug a cactus.

You score my body

With short sharp shocks

When I get too close.

Loving you is like

Sleeping in a honey bed.

You wrap around me

With slick suffocation

When I try to escape.

Loving you is like

Writing an oxymoron.

You have no words

With cohesive ideas

When I ask how you feel.

Loving you is like

Climbing a jelly mountain.

You unsettle me somewhat

With longed-for openness

When you tell me I am missed.

Loving you is like

Wearing a stone feather coat.

You weigh heavy on me

With your contradiction

When I am without you.

Loving you is like

A jigsaw with a piece missing

You are here somewhere

With resigned defeat

When you watch as I leave.

Loving you is like

Catching air in a jar

You persist in your absence

With memories unspoken

When the end comes.

Lisa Hawkins

London Calling: A Guide for First-Timers

Check out my Flight Path page for other destination guides.

London is one of the greatest cities in the world and a first-time visit can feel daunting/overwhelming for London novices. I’ve been coming to London for years as a tourist and I made London my home in May 2019. This blog post offers tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your visit. As Samuel Johnson famously declared, ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’  I hope when you visit that you love this city as much as I do…

USEFUL WEBSITES AND APPS

ARRIVING

Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport are the two main arrival points for international flights. Flights to Gatwick can sometimes be cheaper than Heathrow so it’s worth checking flights destined for both airports to compare.

  • Heathrow Airport – you can avoid the expensive cost of the Heathrow Express by taking the Piccadilly Line on the Tube for under £5.
  • Gatwick Airport – take the Gatwick Express. You could take an National Express coach but it’s a longer journey (90 minutes to London Victoria Station) and not much cheaper than the Express.

GETTING AROUND LONDON

London is a fantastic city to walk around but it is also huge with lots to see and do. London consists of 33 distinctive boroughs but you will probably spend most of your time in the boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea during your first visit. If you are short on time, use public transport to get to key areas which you can then explore on foot.

  • Oyster card – definitely buy one of these. You can buy them from ticket machines in London Underground Stations. You will need one to travel on all forms of public transport. Whilst you can now travel contactless with your bankcard, not all International bank cards work. My bank card works but I feel more comfortable keeping my travel card separate, not flashing my bank card in public. The oyster card can easily be topped up using ticket machines or the TFL Oyster app https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/terms-and-conditions/tfl-oyster-app
  • Don’t bother buying a travel card – Oyster cards have a daily capped rate of £7 zone 1 – 2 on the Tube and £4.40 for unlimited bus travel
  • Download the Tube App and CityMapper App to help you navigate the city.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Wombats City Hostel London – I’ve stayed in many London hostels over the years and this one is my favourite. It was awarded London’s best hostel by Hostelworld in 2019. Great facilities and location. Maximum length of stay is two weeks https://www.wombats-hostels.com/london/
  • The Hub Premier Inn – if you can afford to spend more than the cost of a hostel bed, then The Hub could be for you. I like the one in King’s Cross. They offer compact and comfortable modern rooms with TVs and AC https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/hotels/england/greater-london/london/hub-london-kings-cross.html
  • Good Hotel London – if you fancy staying somewhere unique, I stayed at the Good Hotel London earlier this year. It’s a boat hotel with an amazing socially conscious mission. Read about my stay here Good Hotel London
  • LHA Hostels – perfect for people looking to move to London and who can’t afford expensive deposits and rents. A £200 deposit will secure you a place and you can select to stay in a private room or shared room in various properties around London. These hostels are not designed for backpackers or short term travellers (stay at Wombats City Hostel instead) as you need to provide your own toiletries, kitchenware etc. Check out their website here https://lhalondon.com/

THINGS TO DO

Free gems in the city:

  • View London from Primrose Hill, or Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath.
  • Stop by the British Library – the Treasures Gallery is unmissable and free (extra charge for some exhibitions) plus the outside seating area is lovely in the summer.
  • Prepare to be amazed at the Wellcome Collection – a fantastic place that showcases artefacts exploring ‘the connections between medicine, science, life and art’. The free temporary exhibition I visited about the psychology of magic was brilliant.
  • Spend time in one of London’s most-loved galleries – National Portrait Gallery (extra charge for some exhibitions) – I much prefer this to The National Gallery next door.
  • Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace – has to be seen at least once.
  • Get an art fix at Tate Modern – a modern and contemporary art fan’s dream (extra charge for some exhibitions) and Tate Britain – housing British art dating back to Tudor times.
  • Peruse thought-provoking exhibits in the Imperial War Museum (a charge to visit the Churchill War Rooms).
  • Lose hours at the British Museum (extra charge for some exhibitions) – home of the Rosetta Stone and other treasures.
  • Shop til you drop in Covent Garden – known for street performers, markets and designer stores.
  • Pause for thought in the ‘Actor’s Church’, St Paul’s Church, when browsing round Covent Garden.
  • Drink tea in the Twining’s Tea Bar, Strand – the oldest tea shop in London (free to look, charge for tea).
  • Visit the V&A (extra charge for some exhibitions) – has 4.6 million items!
  • Mooch around Harrods.
  • Harry Potter fans can get a photo taken at Platform 9 3/4 Kings Cross.
  • Pose with a lion at Trafalgar Square.
  • Swot up at the Natural History Museum – a stunning building housing a vast collection.
  • View London from the Sky Garden – beautiful views of the city but you have to book in advance to visit.
  • Pop in to the neon paradise of God’s Own Junkyard and pick your favourite sign.
  • Walk The Line – London’s first dedicated modern and contemporary art walk http://the-line.org/#/home
  • Have a coffee in a restored Victorian public convenience (free to look, charge for coffee) at The Attendant Fitzrovia.
  • People watch in Leicester Square. Check out actor handprints outside Vue Leicester Square cinema. You may get lucky and see a premiere taking place.
  • Pose with Eros in Piccadilly Circus – a mini Times Square.
  • Stroll round Chinatown – a vibrant area of the city.
  • Imagine London during the Swinging Sixties when shopping in Carnaby Street.
  • Walk through the Baker Street Wonderpass – the city’s most unusual underpass.
  • Head to Hackney City Farm – home to a variety of rescued animals.
  • Drop by the Design Museum (extra charge for some exhibitions) – the recent Stanley Kubrick exhibition was phenomenal.
  • Explore Camden Market – for shopping and food on the go. Grab a beer canal side and people watch.
  • Ride the Emirates Air line, a cable car that spans the Thames.
  • Meander round Little Venice – for some serenity in the city.
  • Another serene space to help you find your inner zen – Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park.
  • Go deer-spotting in Richmond Park – home to over 650 deer.
  • Snap street art – key areas: Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Camden.

Ticketed Places:

  • Tower of London – a history buff must.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral – a visit up to the Whispering Gallery is unmissable.
  • London Eye – the big wheel with majestic views.
  • Westminster Abbey – pay your respects to some historical giants.
  • Jack the Ripper Museum and Walk – a must for Ripper enthusiasts.
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum – again a must for fans.
  • Greenwich’s Royal Observatory – go to stand on the Meridian Line.
  • Stay overnight at London Zoo – book a night at ZSL London Zoo Lodges.
  • Kayak on the Thames with Kayak London.
  • Go up The Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire of London.
  • Slide down the ArcelorMittal Orbit – the UK’s tallest sculpture. If you fancy a swim, the London Aquatics Centre is nearby, offering one of the cheapest swims in the city.
  • Open air swimming – Hampstead Heath Ponds and London Fields Lido.
  • Picturehouse Central – catch a movie at my favourite cinema.

Tip: look out for small round blue plaques on buildings around London. They tell you where famous writers, artists etc lived.

FOOD & DRINK

You can find all international cuisines and a multitude of drinking spots in London. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Borough Market – one of the city’s largest and oldest markets. Eat a pie at Pieminister.
  • Rules – oldest restaurant in London.
  • Savoy’s American Bar – longest surviving cocktail bar in London.
  • Netil360 – laidback rooftop bar in East London.
  • Abeno – the go-to place for Japanese Okonomiyaki (one of my favourite eats).
  • Hawksmoor – for your Sunday roast dinner.
  • Best fish and chips – the award-winning Poppies (available for delivery).
  • A must-try: a sausage roll from bakery chain Greggs.
  • Places with meal deals to grab lunch on the go – Boots, Tesco, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer.
  • Coffee on a budget – the Pret a Manger chain do a filter coffee for £1.
  • Cheapest food shop if self-catering – Morrisons.

SEE A WEST END SHOW 

  • Get cheap tickets from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square.
  • My recommendations: Hamilton; Book of Mormon; Come From Away – book tickets for under £20 direct with the theatre online. No need to shell out for pricey tickets – you get an excellent view from the back of the Phoenix theatre.

MY FAVOURITE WALK

  • Start at St Paul’s Underground station, visit St Paul’s Cathedral, then walk over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. Lovely views of London from the bridge and tower of the Tate Modern. Facing the Thames, you can either go right, walk by the Globe Theatre to Borough Market, a perfect spot for lunch or go left and you’ll get to the National Theatre and BFI Southbank.

DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON (reachable from under 2 hours).

Other suggestions: Bristol; Bath; Windsor; Canterbury; Margate; Cambridge; Oxford.

IMAGES OF LONDON

 

In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner

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Last edited: 26th September 2019

NOTE: Instagram feedback on this post has been amazing! Sorry to hear that so many of you have gone through similar experiences. My heart goes out to you and I appreciate all the positive comments. Take care.

Trigger warning: this post discusses coercive control in relationships, emotional abuse and gaslighting.

This post links with Dear Dubai Ex: ClosureHow To Date An Arsehole, It’s Not Me, It’s You, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

There is a difference between someone who just likes to get their own way all of the time, i.e. a selfish f**cker, and someone who is coercively controlling. Many relationships have one partner who tends to take the lead but sometimes their need for control can go too far. This blog post discusses warning signs that your partner may be too controlling, and may indeed be coercively controlling. Coercive control within relationships refers to a spectrum of behaviours that puts one person in a position of dominance and control over their partner. When thinking about coercive control, you may have an image of a man who controls finances within the relationship, won’t let his partner spend money without his consent, won’t let his partner go out without him, who dictates everything his partner does, makes all the major decisions in the relationship, who verbally and/or physically abuses his partner. That’s not necessarily the case although many such men – Romantic Dictators – unfortunately do exist. According to Evan Stark, 2007, Coercive Control. How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press, ‘Not only is coercive control the most common context in which women are abused, it is also the most dangerous.’ A spectrum of behaviours constitute coercive control. Coercive control is a form of emotional abuse and it can have a serious detrimental impact on your mental health, your wellbeing, and your whole life. That was certainly my own experience.

My last two relationships have been with men who liked to be in control and get their own way. In the first relationship, with a man I have referred to in other blog posts as Mr Control (How To Date An Arsehole, The Cat’s Whiskers), the last few months of this two-year relationship made it clear that I had dodged a bullet when he ended the relationship (as he wanted to be single). Only with hindsight did I recognise just how controlling he had been, and how much I had compromised myself within the relationship to keep the peace. Though I felt the usual sadness experienced after a break up, I was able to quickly pick myself up and get myself back out there… walking straight into a relationship with another controlling man, who I will refer to as The Boss, as he was indeed my boss at work. The difference is The Boss was coercively controlling and getting involved with him was the biggest mistake of my life. As I had had a relationship with a controlling man before, why was I not able to see the signs sooner to avoid getting involved with yet another man who likes to control? The answer is the charm offensive. Defined as ‘a campaign of flattery, friendliness, and cajolement designed to achieve the support or agreement of others,’ I was charmed into the relationship, and my love blinkers prevented me from discerning his true nature and just how catastrophic this relationship would prove to be. Coincidently, Mr Control and The Boss shared the same birthday but they also shared other traits too. I obviously have a type – handsome, highly intelligent, ambitious, witty, charismatic men. Both men were emotionally intelligent, able to engage in thoughtful discussions, and could be supportive and considerate when they wanted to be. As happy as I was at times within each relationship, neither relationship could ultimately go the distance once I realised the different ways they tried to control me. I’m an independent strong-minded woman and although I will make compromises for the sake of a healthy, happy relationship, I will always naturally rebel against efforts to control me unnecessarily. I want to be in a relationship with an equal, a loving partner, not a dictator who expects to always get their own way and punishes when you don’t toe the line.

My relationship with The Boss is a long and complicated story that I have blogged about extensively since I left him in April 2018. You can read about it on my About Me page and the blog posts How To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars, Gaslighting Survival Guide and It’s Not Me, It’s You. Our relationship took place in Dubai, a hypocritical Middle-Eastern city where everything is skewed in favour of men and the rights of women are a joke. As such, he got away with professional misconduct and emotionally abusive behaviour. Controlling and coercive behaviour is an offence in the UK. The law recognises the harm that the cumulative impact of controlling and coercive behaviour can have. It is an offence if the behaviour has a serious effect on the victim, i.e. causes serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities. Two years in to the relationship, there was an incident in which The Boss did something that he knew would hurt me to punish me for chatting to a male colleague at a staff party. I was so devastated, I instructed him to leave me alone, and to go through my line managers if there was a work issue to be dealt with. The Boss ignored my request, summoned me to a meeting in work to tell me there had been a silly complaint about me. He pretended he had done nothing wrong, that I had not requested to be left alone, and tried to manipulate me into compliance by telling me he had my back, implying I should be grateful for his support. This is a textbook example of gaslighting and was not the first time he had caused conflict with his unacceptable behaviour and then tried to manipulate me back in to submission. Unfortunately two years of dealing with this kind of behaviour had taken its toll, I had a breakdown and left Dubai for a week during term time to try to get my head together. I did go back for the kids I taught but I was broken. I managed a couple more months but he pushed me too far and eventually I spoke up to put an end to the situation. This relationship negatively impacted my mental health, my physical wellbeing, my relationships with others and my career. Far too many things happened in the relationship and post-break-up for me to discuss in this post; I’ve only ever shared as much as I felt I needed to to be believed, and to help others who may be in similar abusive situations. The point of this post is not to ‘dish dirt’ but instead to highlight what coercive control is.

Some warning signs of a controlling partner to watch out for:

  • being love-bombed at the beginning of the relationship – over the top gestures, excessive compliments. This is the charm offensive used to sucker you in. Both Mr Control and The Boss did this with me.
  • wanting to be with you all of the time. You feel flattered that they want you by their side all the time but it’s just their way of taking you over. Ensure you have time for yourself and your friends. Mr Control ended up isolating me from my friends because we spent so much time together and he didn’t like my friends.
  • messaging constantly – you may like the fact they want to chat so much but they may be checking up on you, monitoring your activities and who you are with.    
  • telling you what to wear, how your hair should be and what your weight should be. Not OK.
  • critical comments made with the intention of making you feel stupid, that make you feel not good enough, that make you feel as though you are in the wrong even when you’ve done nothing wrong. I remember being sent this classic when I joked I only got a smile emoji back in response to a long WhatsApp comment. The Boss replied, ‘A smile is a good thing and something you used to appreciate.’ Ouch. That told me.
  • encouraging dependency – when they imply that only they understand you, only they ‘get you’, so you get used to going to them for support. I once turned to The Boss for support in a professional matter, only to find out later that he had been the one who had caused the issue and had thrown me under the bus despite telling me he had supported me. It is not uncommon for victims to become overly-dependent on their abusers – it’s akin to Stockholm-Syndrome.
  • mind games – telling blatant lies or going hot and cold to play with your perceptions/emotions.
  • lack of respect for boundaries – they may not respect boundaries you set and will instead just do what they want regardless. For example, not giving you space when you ask for it. If you end the relationship, they may ignore your requests to be left alone. They may prevent you from leaving the relationship if you express a desire to end it and manipulate you into staying.
  • jealousy and possessiveness – they monitor who you chat to or spend time with. They may monitor your social media, to see what you post and who likes or posts comments. They may monitor phone calls, WhatsApps, emails etc, or even track your whereabouts using apps. They may insist that you share your passwords with them. They regard you as theirs, a possession.
  • Sulking and punishment – they go cold on you when upset with you and may do something to retaliate, to punish or let you know they are displeased with you. This is where fear comes into play – fear of letting them down, or fear of losing your job for example. I felt I always had to please The Boss to ensure my career was not impacted; in the end I lost my job when I spoke up about his behaviour. This was, however, a blessing in disguise. 

All of the above can appear to be ‘low-level’ behaviours but they are used to control and assert dominance; over a period of time, they can have serious consequences for victims. Controlling men do not like it when you do not do as you are told, if you fail to comply with their wishes and demands, or if you stand up for yourself, and they will find ways to regain power and control. As confident as these men can appear to be, the need to control often stems from their own deep-rooted insecurities. They may fear that you will leave them so they chip away at you, to make you feel that no one else will want you, or may even tell you that no one else will love you as much as they do. Some men treat women like trophies to make themselves appear more desirable or successful. You may have to look and behave a certain way in order to be ‘good enough’ to be with them. Coercive control has absolutely no place within a healthy relationship. Unchain yourself from anyone who tries to control you, who stops you from being yourself, who makes you unhappy, and does not enhance your life. 

Now fully back in control of my life, I am passionately committed to educating others about coercive control. Victims deserve to be heard and believed and I have spoken up on behalf of so many women who may not recognise that they are experiencing coercive control, or feel too afraid to speak up themselves. I didn’t know what coercive control was until I had counselling and I’m glad I can use my blog, and Instagram, to share my experiences to highlight the issue and encourage others to set themselves free. 

Peace, Lisa.

A Journey In Japan

This is a throwback destination guide. People often ask me which place has been my favourite travel destination. Years of travelling around the world means it is difficult to choose a favourite place. I have been fortunate to go to so many great places but if I had to choose one favourite, it would be Japan. I visited Japan in the summer of 2017 and absolutely fell in love with the country, the culture, the food, the people etc. It’s a very special place and an easy and safe destination to travel round solo. Key tourist sites are well sign-posted, the high speed and efficient Shinkansen bullet trains make getting around the country a breeze and you will always find people happy to help you should you need guidance/directions.

Tips:

  • You need to buy your railcard before you go. I bought my pass here http://bit.ly/2LXFvV5 The pass is excellent value for money and gives you unlimited travel provided you follow the instructions. Your Japan Rail Pass entitles you to free seat reservations on valid trains. Reservations can be made in person at train stations. This site offers great advice https://www.seat61.com/Japan.htm
  • When in Japan, buy a Pasmo card (similar to London’s Oyster card) that you can top up to pay for public transport. You can buy these from Metro ticket machines.
  • Download the free Tokyo Metro App to help you navigate your way around this sprawling city.

TOKYO

Give yourself plenty of time to explore this huge city. Suggested things to see/do:

  • View Shibuya Crossing from Starbucks.
  • Visit Tsukiji Market and have a fresh sushi lunch.
  • Go to Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park.
  • Go up the Tokyo Skytree.
  • Visit a cat cafe.
  • Catch the show at the Robot Restaurant.
  • Visit Sensō-ji temple.
  • Stroll along Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
  • Sing Karaoke in a branch of Karaoke Kan.

Day trips from Tokyo: Nara, Kamakura, Nikko and Mount Fuji (train journeys from Tokyo)

Nara Famous for the freely roaming deer and temples.

Kamakura: An understated seaside resort with a large buddha statue.

Nikko: National Park with a famous shrine and mausoleum.

Mount Fuji

I didn’t get to go to Mount Fuji during my trip unfortunately as I had left it to do when I returned to Tokyo after exploring the country and I misjudged how much time I needed to do it. If you can, you should definitely go; you can find a suggested day trip itinerary here https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/mount-fuji It’s at the top of my to-do list when I am next in Japan…

TAKAYAMA

A city with a beautifully preserved old town. You only need a night or two here. Many travellers come here before hiking Japan’s Alps. I really enjoyed my visit here. Such a cute place with small shops, saki bars and restaurants. Stay in a traditional Ryokan if you can and you definitely have to visit an onsen (a hot spring that is a quintessential Japanese experience).

KANAZAWA

A modern city with some fantastic sites to visit. Suggested things to see/do:

  • Kanazawa Castle – impressive historical site.
  • Kenrokuen Garden – lovely landscaped garden.
  • Go for matcha tea in one of the geisha teahouses in the Higashi Chaya district.
  • See contemporary art at the 21st Century Museum.

KYOTO

Absolutely loved my time in Kyoto. It’s less manic than Tokyo, with so many beautiful temples to visit, and no trip to Kyoto is complete without a walk around the geisha district. You can see a geisha performance for an affordable price at Gion Corner. Other suggested things to see/do:

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine – famous for its thousands of red torii gates. Kyoto’s most visited shrine.
  • Visit Arashiyama’s bamboo forest. It can get over-crowded so try to visit early in the day.
  • Walk the Philosopher’s Path (known for cherry blossoms in the spring).
  • Dine in a restaurant in Pontocho Alley.

OSAKA

A modern and vibrant city with a thriving culinary scene. A fun day trip is a visit to Universal Studios Osaka – go just to hear Harry Potter speaking Japanese and ensure you stay for the dementors light show in the evening. I also recommend eating your way round Dōtombori or booking a food tour.

HIROSHIMA & MIYAJIMA

Many travellers visit Hiroshima and Miyajima as a day trip from Tokyo but both places are peaceful at night and are good options for an overnight stay if you don’t want to rush. I chose to stay overnight in Hiroshima and I was glad I did this as Miyajima is a train and ferry ride away from Hiroshima, and it may take you longer to get there and back than you expect. I visited Miyajima in the morning which then gave me plenty of time to explore Hiroshima’s Peace Park. The Peace Museum is excellent, and the park itself has several monuments, such as the Children’s Monument, worth seeing.

I spent three wonderful weeks travelling round Japan focusing on the main places I had read about during my trip research but there is so much to see in this magnificent country so I will definitely be going back. For now Japan, Sayōnara. We will meet again one day.

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

This post links with Dear Dubai Ex: ClosureHow To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible ScarsGaslighting Survival Guide and In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner

Someone I had blocked on Instagram recently reached out via email to contact me.  The email began ‘I don’t know why you have deleted/blocked/ignored me….’ and I didn’t read the rest. I had indeed deleted, blocked and ignored this person, making clear – I thought – my desire to be left alone, but apparently not. Not wanting to be pulled into unnecessary drama, I had two choices: ignore them and hope they got the hint, or reply and then block their email, ending the relationship once and for all. I would rather someone told me directly the worst truth rather than lie or ghost me, so I chose to reply. I told them I had deleted the email unread, asked not to be contacted again and ended with a thank you. As cold as that sounds, it seemed kinder than ignoring and it did the job without an unsatisfying exchange of blaming/argumentative emails that would have been a waste of time given my decision to walk away from the relationship. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. What is the correct etiquette these days for ending a relationship? Does it depend on the length of the relationship or the kind of relationship you had? Should you end friendship relationships differently to romantic relationships? Pertinent questions as we will all have to end relationships at some time in our lives for various reasons: infidelity, disloyalty, financial hardship, conflicting values, boredom, you want different things out of life, you don’t enjoy spending time with the other person, they may remind you of a time in your life you would rather forget and you want a clean break, or perhaps you have just grown apart/ outgrown each other.  As we go through life, we are constantly evolving and our relationships change too.  

I’ve only been dumped a couple of times in my romantic life because I am the one who tends to exit first. Not because I have commitment issues but because I go with my gut and I’d rather be alone than in a relationship just for the sake of it. I have had some classic experiences of being let down not so gently.  Adam* was a guy I had known socially through mutual friends. One evening after we bumped into each other and had cocktails, I took him home with me and one thing led to another. I was not expecting this necessarily to lead to anything serious but my word, no sooner had he withdrawn from my vagina than he was dressed and racing for the door. Turning back to see my stunned expression, he looked suitably ashamed, muttered, ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ and he was gone, setting a record for the quickest exit after intercourse I’ve encountered from all the people I’ve slept with. Another dumper Max didn’t even tell me it was over between us, he just gave the key that I had given him for my apartment to a friend of mine to pass back to me; actions spoke louder than words. Rex and I dated for four months and things had been going well until I found another girl’s knickers in his room on a night I was supposed to be staying over. He tried to claim they were mine but when I insisted they were not, he failed to apologise, told me I was bottom on his list of priorities and he didn’t want a girlfriend anymore. Needless to say, I went home and didn’t see him again. Hilariously, he moved to Dubai the year after I did and asked to see me several times ‘to make it up to me’, but I refused to see him. The best excuse I’ve ever heard for being cheated on was given to me by Robbie who slept with a friend of mine; he said he was so drunk when they had sex he thought she was me – she and I look nothing alike. Unbelievable. The most bittersweet break up was with Dominic after a couple of years of us being together. He was crying so much when he tried to tell me it was over he couldn’t get his words out. It went like this: he turned up at my place ashen faced. As his tears started I prepared myself for the worst. I asked him if someone had died. He said no. I asked him if he had cheated on me. He said no. I felt sick. I asked him if he was ending this. He said yes. We both cried. It was painful but at least he gave me the respect of ending our relationship face to face. Though texting and emailing can be the easy way out, they’re definitely not OK for long term romantic relationships. If you don’t want to be with someone anymore, have the heart and balls to tell them directly to their face.   

That said, I’m not averse to ghosting when necessary. Ghosting, as we all know, is when you suddenly cut someone off and disappear out of their life. For those casually dating multiple partners, ghosting is commonplace and you can’t take it too personally. It’s easy to ghost someone you hardly know and who doesn’t mean anything to you but I would only ghost someone who has been a friend or someone I have cared about in exceptional circumstances. When I chose to finally leave an abusive situation in my life, I had to protect myself so I only maintained contact with a small number of people from my old life who I trusted. I did what I had to do. I am in touch with the people I care about and want to be in touch with. Over the past year I have been ‘haunted’: emailed by fake email addresses, fake accounts have been set up to contact me via my blog and Instagram, and fake accounts have also monitored my Instagram stories. Consequently, I had to change my phone number, remove my email address from my blog and Instagram, disable comments on my blog and make my Instagram private, in an attempt to be allowed to live my life free from abuse, intimidation and manipulation. Enough was enough. Taking back control felt fantastic. Why people – who do not know me, who did not go through what I did, who do not know everything and therefore don’t know what they are talking about – feel it’s OK to contact me to share their ill-informed judgemental comments or to troll me about my appearance is baffling to me. I spoke out to expose the hypocrisy of a company who failed to investigate a complaint of professional misconduct, despite them knowing that evidence existed to support my complaint, and the hypocrisy of an individual who failed to take responsibility for his behaviour, allowing me to be scapegoated instead. What’s done is done and I don’t have to keep defending myself. Only people who have truth to tell that others want to hide are made to sign NDAs. That speaks for itself. I broke the NDA to ensure that what happened to me, does not happen to someone else, and I wholeheartedly stand by that decision. I refuse to be the punchbag for this situation any longer. Despite everything that happened, I reached out to my ex last month to make peace, to apologise for my part and wished him well. It was a sincere act of closure. However, the recent discovery of a fake Facebook account that contained information only relevant to my ex and I, and therefore could only have been created by him – in addition to some other things I won’t disclose here – led to me filing a complaint of harassment with UK police. The manipulation has to stop. This will hopefully deter further attempts to contact/manipulate/control me so we can both get on with our lives. Any more fake accounts or online abuse will be reported.

As kind as the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ cliche is, everyone knows what it really means. It’s a cop out. A way of telling someone you don’t want to be with them anymore or you don’t want them in your life anymore without telling them the real reasons you feel that way. Next time you feel tempted to use this cliche, you could try being honest. When Dominic dumped me, he told me I had been an amazing girlfriend, that he knew he had been spoiled by me and that I had done nothing wrong, but in his heart he felt something was missing for him. As hard as it was to hear at the time, I respected his honesty and I took the rejection on the chin. I am an honest and direct person so I appreciate it when other people are that way with me. There are, of course, kind ways and brutal ways of telling the truth and I can be brutally honest when I feel it’s time to cut the crap. Always when possible though, choose kindness. When you don’t want to be with someone or have someone in your life anymore, set them free so they can give their heart, mind and energy to people who will/do want them. Life is short, don’t waste yours, or anyone else’s time by not being completely honest. Don’t put more bullshit out into the world than there already is. The only exception to the honesty rule is when you want to tell someone you have feelings for them but you are not in a position to act on those feelings because you are married or otherwise unavailable – by sharing your feelings with someone you shouldn’t, you are putting the other person in an impossible position. What are they supposed to do with that information? Honesty in this case just opens a Pandora’s Box of pain. In those situations, it’s best to keep your feelings to yourself. Even worse is when someone can’t be with you but they don’t want you to be with anyone else either. I’ve experienced that and it was a total headfuck. Don’t accept being treated that way and get rid. I should have sooner. We worked together; this guy messed with my head and career. I got doubly screwed over and didn’t even get laid. I fell in love with a married man but refused to sleep with him. He would not leave me alone when I asked him to and always talked me round, preventing me from moving on. I experienced retaliation in the workplace when he was upset with me and sulking when I chatted to male colleagues he was insecure about. I was so broken by dealing with him and his behaviour, I became incapable of doing my job properly and my life fell apart after I wrote a blog post to get him to stop, as trying to resolve things with him privately never worked. This is the same guy I spoke about above who I have reported to the police to put an end to the situation and to ensure he doesn’t emotionally abuse or sexually harass another woman in the work place again. It should never have come to that. It was a toxic relationship and the worst break up I’ve ever experienced. A lesson learned the hard way. Shit happens. With millions of people looking for love, it is inevitable that we will encounter arseholes during the quest to find ‘The One’. Bad experiences/relationships though help you to work out what you are looking for, what your dealbreakers are, and the kind of person you would like to be with. Dating dickheads or friendships with fakers, make you appreciate the real diamonds more when you find them so no relationship, whether good or bad, is ever a waste of time.  Some say that even those who teach us the hardest or most painful lessons in life are actually our soulmates. I don’t believe in ‘The One’, but rather feel that people come into our lives at certain times to teach us things of value, that everything happens for a reason, and good can come from bad experiences. With that in mind, I am sending love to anyone I have loved and wish them all the best. 

We all deserve to have people in our lives – friends, romantic partners, family – who genuinely love and respect us exactly as we are, who can be emotionally and physically involved with us, loyal and faithful to us, so never ever settle for less. I have made some changes in my life. If you haven’t heard from me recently, then you were one of them. It’s not me, it’s you 😉

Take care, Lisa.    

*All names mentioned have been changed. 

 

Gaslighting Survival Guide

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

*Trigger warning: this post discusses Gaslighting and emotional abuse. 

This post links with Dear Dubai Ex: ClosureIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerHow To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars and It’s Not Me, It’s You

As someone who has experienced the detrimental impact of being gaslighted, I would like to give some tips to help those who suspect they are being gaslighted by someone in their life, whether that be by a parent, a colleague, friend or romantic partner.

The psychological term Gaslighting originates from the 1944 film Gaslight in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane. It has come to describe psychologically/emotionally abusive behaviour that has the intent to cause the victim to question their memory, their perception, and doubt their sanity. Why would someone want to gaslight someone else? To gain power and control. It tends to happen slowly, over a period of time, and can be absolutely devastating to the victim. It certainly was for me. I felt like a shadow of who I was by the time I found the strength to leave the relationship with my ex. During the relationship I became anxious, needy, snappy, paranoid, couldn’t sleep, and cried all the time. I felt as though I couldn’t think straight which impacted my ability to do my job, made worse by the fact that my ex and I worked together and he was in a position of authority over me. He would only support me professionally if our personal relationship was in a good place and even once admitted that to me. He was a compulsive liar but he insisted he never lies. He could be so convincing he would make me doubt myself. He drove me to a breakdown. Relationships with co-workers and friends were negatively impacted. The blog post I wrote to get him to stop led to me losing my job. This is why gaslighting and emotional abuse need to be taken seriously, with abusers held accountable.  You can read more about what Gaslighting is here http://bit.ly/2LgMHv7 

What should you do if you suspect you are being gaslighted?      

  • Do your research. Read about gaslighting techniques or talk with a trained professional so you are informed about the behaviours to watch out for. Once I knew what to look out for, I was able to keep a record of the things that happened whilst still in the relationship. The record helped to prove that my relationship with my ex was not healthy and was also valuable during counselling sessions.
  • Don’t be naive. Always remember that you are dealing with a very clever individual who is adept at manipulation. Simply talking to them and explaining your concerns is going to be ineffective. They will persuade you that you are wrong, convince you that they’ve done nothing wrong, and possibly say phrases like ‘You know I care about you, how could you think I would do anything to hurt you?’ Or ‘I’m disappointed you think that I am capable of that.’ They know how to turn things on you, to make you feel guilty and question yourself. Many times my ex did things that were unacceptable but after calling him out on his behaviour, I would often end up feeling bad and apologise to keep the peace.
  • Keep a record and collect evidence. An online diary that only you have access to could be safer than a written diary that could be found and read by the abuser. I created a Google Docs online diary and wrote down everything that happened in the relationship that I identified as being a gaslighting technique, or anything that was unacceptable to me – blatant lying, manipulative phrases, when his actions didn’t match his words, things done to deliberately confuse or wound etc. For evidence, I collected emails, regularly saved transcripts of WhatsApp conversations and took screenshots. You are always in a position of strength when you have truth AND evidence on your side – even if no one wants to listen/believe you. Knowing you have proof in black and white will make you feel more certain about what happened and make it easier to explain it to others if necessary.         
  • Share what is happening. If you have other people in your life that you trust, try to tell them about things that happen. For example, I did share some incidents with trusted friends and showed them messages. However, no one knew the full extent of the emotional abuse as I kept so much to myself. When I did eventually speak up, it was hard for people to believe me as they didn’t know everything that had happened and they didn’t get that it wasn’t just one event; gaslighting is a collection of manipulative actions and behaviours over a period of time.
  • Trust the evidence, particularly when dealing with gaslighting within a romantic relationship. When you love someone, it is natural to want to believe them and trust them so when they start to gaslight you, you make excuses for them. This allows them to continue to get away with abusing you. If your gut instinct is telling you something is off and you don’t like how someone is making you feel, pay attention to that and trust the evidence. If you speak up about their abuse, they will discredit you and make you appear crazy – but the evidence will speak for itself, making them look foolish. At the very least, you will know that you are right when others try to tell you you are wrong.      
  • Leave the situation. I stayed far too long in a relationship that I knew was harmful to me because I loved him. Put distance between you and your abuser. With distance from both them and the manipulation, over time you will gain clarity and the strength to fight back/ move on. You have a right to be happy. You have a right to good mental health and healthy relationships. You have a right to remove anyone from your life who harms your wellbeing and negatively impacts your life. Life is too short for such bullsh*t.

Recovery after gaslighting can be slow but you will get there in time, with help. These days I am in a good place mentally and emotionally, unless something triggers me – for example, a phrase that someone says, or a manipulative relationship in a TV show, can take me back to a dark place, but I try to surround myself with positive people and count my blessings. I have a new life now, I’m living in a different country, I’m doing a different job, and I am happy I got away. I hope that my writing encourages someone else to find the courage to positively change their life, as I have.  

Take care,

Lisa.   

Tripping to Brighton

  • Visited May 2019.

An easy day trip from London is a visit to the seaside resort of Brighton, located on the South Coast of England. I’ve wanted to come to Brighton ever since I read Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock as a teenager and as much as I love London, sometimes it’s lovely to escape the city to be by the sea. Brighton is regarded as the LGBTQ capital of the UK and the vibe of tolerance and diversity makes it an exciting and fun place to visit. Before going I consulted two of my favourite websites for suggestions of things to do – Atlas Obscura http://bit.ly/2Mi6oEf and Culture Trip http://bit.ly/2W77Adr. Atlas Obscura is a great source for all the weird and wonderful things there are to see and do in places around the world and Culture Trip (which also has an App you can download articles to read offline – invaluable when I was in Cuba with little Internet access) is brilliant as various articles suggest essential sights, restaurants etc. Armed with a rough list of key sites, I set off for my day trip.

I booked my train ticket through the Trainline App the day before going. Using the App I was able to select the cheapest journeys and I paid £19 for a return ticket (including booking fee). A ticket bought on the day at the station would have cost me £27. It was cheaper to travel from London Blackfriars station with Thameslink than to travel from London Victoria. London Blackfriars is easily reached using the Underground. The journey time from Blackfriars to Brighton was only 1 hour 13 minutes. There are regular trains running to and from Brighton. When you exit the station, take the road straight ahead to walk down to the sea front.

Suggested Activities

The Seafront

  • Visit Brighton Palace Pier – free to walk along.
  • Enjoy fish and chips by the sea – but watch out for seagulls who like to steal your food!
  • Buy a stick of Brighton Rock at The World Famous Brighton Rock Shop on the street parallel to the sea front (55 Kings Road).
  • Grab a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants and watch the waves and the sun go down – I had a glass of wine at Tempest Inn. The interior is designed to look like caves. The outside seating area is perfect for people watching.
  • Go up the British Airways i360, a 162-metre observation tower. An adult ticket is £16.50 if you buy it on the day at the venue.
  • Visit the newly opened Upside Down House – next to the i360 tower – in which all of the rooms are inverted. Tickets cost £4
  • Walk along the sea front to the colourful Hove Beach Huts, a short walk from the i360.
  • Visit the Sea Life Centre – the World’s oldest operating aquarium. An Adult ticket bought on the day costs £20. Tickets are currently 40% cheaper when bought online.
  • About a mile west of the Palace Pier lies Brighton Marina and the start of the Undercliff Walk if you fancy some scenic exercise.

Away from the Sea

  • A must-do is a visit to the absolutely stunning Royal Pavilion. Built as a holiday home for King George VI, the opulence of the Chinese-themed interior is breathtaking. When I visited there was an exhibition of Stephen Jones’ Hats. Tickets cost £15 when bought at the venue. Tickets are cheaper online. Take your smartphone with you and you can access two free audio tours, using the Pavilion’s free wifi.
  • Also in the same grounds as the Royal Pavilion, you can visit the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. Tickets cost £6.
  • Visit The Lanes – an area of narrow lanes, with small shops, pubs and restaurants.
  • Go on a Ghost Walk – meet outside the Druid’s Head Pub. An adult ticket is £8.
  • Mooch around the shoppers paradise of North Laine, a bohemian area full of vegan cafes, vintage clothing stores, bars and restaurants. This area boasts the largest selection of independent retailers on the South Coast. Highlights include This is Not A Butchers gift shop and the quirky Snoopers Paradise, Brighton’s biggest antiques and vintage emporium.
  • Pop into St Bartholomew’s Church, which has one of the tallest interiors in England. Some say that it was built to the measurements of Noah’s Ark.
  • Near to St Bartholomew’s Church is Bardsley’s Fish and Chip restaurant, lauded as one of the best in Brighton. Loved my chips and mushy peas takeaway from here so I can recommend.
  • Also nearby is the Brighton Open Market. Redeveloped in 2014, it is now home to 50 local producers and creators. Opposite The Gnarly Trunk gift shop you will find the Brighton Fairy Folly, created by artist David Mayhew as a home for ‘fairies, hobbits, mermaids and witches’.
  • Street Art fans will enjoy finding hidden gems all around Brighton.

*Something I’ve read on other blogs as a suggestion is a Brighton Sewers Tour but note that this is now permanently closed.

Getting Around Brighton

The key sites of Brighton are easily accessed on foot but there is also a Hop On Hop Off bus tours operating around the resort. Tickets cost £14 and can be bought here http://bit.ly/2YUGZ4M

Selection of pictures from my day trip: