I’m sorry, but we need to talk about suicide…



Earlier this week I found out someone who I had grown up with but had lost touch many years ago had taken his own life. Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of an amazing human, someone who taught me more than they will ever know, taking their life. In the summer of 2015 I lost one of my dearest and best friends, in the same way, and she will never know that my life will never be the same without her.

This is a subject I have always planned to write about, because as many people who have followed my writing over the years will know, putting some words down and emptying the thoughts in my brain is a kind of personal therapy for me. But on this subject, I have always refrained as I know how deeply and how directly it affects so many of my loved ones.

However, I have decided to write something today, and I just want to say I do not wish to upset anyone in any way. I do not mean any disrespect to people referenced in this post, their friends or their families. I write from a place of love to try and tackle the stigma and taboo of this topic and to try to find a way to open a dialogue.


It was back in 2007, 10 years ago, that I first experienced loss from suicide. It was the middle of the night when I received a call that I will never forget. I don’t wish to go in to any detail as, as much as that night was hard for me it was so much harder for people who remain very close to me. The events of that night and the following day, although 10 years ago now, still feel like they are crystal clear, in slow motion, each frame stored in my mind in a slideshow to be replayed when I least expect it. Like when I hear a certain kind of laugh, or a song.

My mum always refers to the “tin of beans” analogy. Whenever we lose anyone, and we start to get our lives back to something resembling “normal,” she always warns me about the “tin of beans.” This isn’t always literal but it’s the fact that at some point in your life when you feel you have passed the generally accepted phases of grieving, that you will find yourself doing the most normal, mundane task of shopping in the supermarket, for example, and you will notice the tin of beans that was something the person you lost loved or reminds you of them. It could be a tin of beans, it could be a Nirvana song, it could be strawberry cider and macaroni cheese… it could be anything, but in that moment, all that grief will hit you again when you least expect it, as raw as it ever has been.

10 years later, I still often have these “tin of beans” moments.

My dear friend who I lost in 2007 will never know how much that loss affected me for many reasons and how his death influenced many of the decisions that have shaped my life. A few weeks previous to his death I remember clearly a conversation with a friend where I described his behaviour as “attention seeking.” I could say I was young, I could say I didn’t understand, I could say many things in defence of this but I won’t defend these words as it was ignorance. After his death I had this incredible anger, firstly directed at him for the pain that I blamed him for putting his loved ones through and then at myself for not being able to stop what happened and for writing it off as what I thought as “attention seeking.” For many years I replayed that conversation over and over again in my head and I held a huge amount of guilt around it.

At 18, after experiencing this, I changed many things about my perspective on mental health issues and I did many things to try to work on my ignorance.

I did courses, I read articles and papers and blogs, I attended training and volunteered in mental health programmes. I used my social media as a platform to share helplines and information for those seeking help as much as I possibly could.

When I saw anything I thought was concerning from a friend or family member I would go way and beyond to be there in any way for them, even people I barely knew. I thought I understood suicide.

But then in 2015, I was busy working, volunteering, doing a million things at once, and had been trying to arrange a dinner with one of my best friends but as both us generally were admittedly good at being a bit flakey we had changed the date so many times it had been a long time since we had actually seen each other in real life outside of texts and social media. Finally, we found a date and planned to have a dinner on a Saturday night.

When Saturday came I text her in the morning to see if it was still happening and when she didn’t answer I didn’t think too much of it as, as I said, we were a bit flakey and I just assumed she got busy. In the evening, I sent her a message with some kisses so if she was busy she would know I was thinking of her and that it was ok. In the morning I discovered she had passed away and in the coming days I found out what had happened.

When someone you love dies, the pain is visceral. It is physically debilitating. I remember that morning going straight to one of our mutual friends houses and I physically couldn’t walk up her stairs.

In time that physical aspect subsides but there is an emptiness. That emptiness, I believe is the hardest part of loss. It is exactly that, a loss, you no longer have that person in your life and you feel that hole, that empty space where they were. It is so sudden and so final.

My personal reaction to this loss followed what I imagine many people experiencing loss in this way is – What if? What if? What if?

But I did react differently than I did those years ago. That initial anger was not there, that “how dare you do this to your loved ones” kind of attitude I had held before. Over the years I had realized this was not what suicide was, it was not designed to hurt the people around, it was perceived in that darkness to stop the hurt. The only anger I held was at myself for not being a better friend, that is something I am sure will never leave me.

So, the point of this post was not to relive these moments but to draw attention to the fact that suicide is something we cannot ignore.  We grieve for the lives lost without tackling the issue and we find ourselves in a time where the most common cause of death in Scotland of 20-30 year olds is suicide. The people I have referenced in this post will never see the age of 30, along with so, so many others as they did not see any other way to continue.

A few years back I was sitting at a friends having a drink after the pub, there was around 10 of us sitting at the kitchen table having one of those 3am putting the world to rights kind of conversations when the topic of suicide came up. Each, one by one, told a story of the person who they loved who they had lost this way – friends, cousins, brothers. Each person directly had been affected by this very specific kind of grief.

This is so common, so, so painfully common and yet we do not talk about it. Yes, the conversation on mental health has opened up over recent years and it is an amazing start but suicide itself is still seen as subject we should try not to mention too much.

But we must, we must keep our young people alive, we must keep people believing their worth and that they are valued and loved and needed in this world.

Honestly, I don’t know how we tackle this but I know this time of year is particularly difficult for many people and for so many this time of year is so much that they decide to take their own life.

We must offer an alternative. We must show that there is a way through the darkness. Life is not always easy, it can be difficult at times, but it is worth living.

We must break the stigma around seeking support for our mental health, at the end of the day suicide is the result of an illness, yet all too often we forget this and it becomes a subject of blame either towards the person who has died, the people around them, or ourselves rather than looking at it as we would any other illness and trying to find better treatments to save more lives.

The people I have lost will stay forever in my heart and in my memories, not for the final action they took, not for their death, but for the beautiful moments of life we shared and for all that they taught me.

No matter how alone you may feel, there will be someone out there thinking of you, even when you cannot feel it, you are loved. 

Please anyone out there who may feel like they don’t see any other option, please reach out. If you can to your friends or family, or if you want to speak to someone outside of your situation I copy below some contacts for support. It is not a weakness to ask for help, trust me the people you love can get over a difficult time when you need some support but they will never get over you no longer being here with them.

Love and strength to all at this difficult time of year.



Samaritans UK and Ireland –




Greece – http://suicide-help.gr/

USA – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/



A Christmas Dinner For Care Leavers

Way back at the start of my Greek journey in 2015, a person came into my life which, even in that first moment of introduction, I knew would be a person I would never forget and a person who had a story to tell and a story to keep listening to.


Our first meeting was similar to many ways new people have come into my life since I first arrived in Kos. We met in the dark night, upon the port of Kos, trying to make the first moments in Europe less horrific than they already were for those arriving on the shores in rubber dinghys.

After this first nightshift we went for a breakfast, surrounded by tourists who were completely unaware of the nightly horror unfolding. We sat in this incredible juxtaposition and we talked, we shared and I knew that I was sitting opposite a truly inspiring human being who I would share many more moments such as this with.


It has now been over two years and this wonderful woman is now a dear friend of mine. Now, I could go on to write a detailed blog about the many ways I am inspired by the many different world changing initiatives she is involved in and generally about how amazing a human she is but I actually felt the need to write something today about a very specific project. I would love to write a blog simply about amazing she is also, but today I will focus, one day though!

Around this time of year, we all start to feel a little more charitable and giving, and personally I always look to find something I feel is important to support. Sometimes I share publicly what I am supporting, sometimes I just show up and do something I think is useful to help and don’t say much about it, but this year I want to share this to raise some awareness and hopefully some pennies towards something I see makes a real difference in real people’s lives.

In a previous life, a long time ago, I found myself doing a stint of studying Creative Writing in Manchester when my poetry mentor introduced me to the work of a poet named Lemn Sissay. As soon as I began reading his work, I fell in love with his words. Previously I had been someone who never particularly took much interest in poetry but my view of poetry and its amazing power completely changed in that moment.

So fast forward quite a few years, and one day whilst scrolling through my social media feed I notice the name of the poet who opened my mind to the world of poetry tagged in a post with the name of the inspirational soul who shared that breakfast with me in Kos and encouraged me to open my heart again to the world through words.

This post was about a Christmas Dinner event for care leavers. As I began to look into it I started to see how this event had been making a real difference to the lives of care leavers, at a difficult time of the year, for a while and that every year the event was expanding and reaching more people, creating more happy memories.

I previously volunteered in some organisations supporting care leavers and instantly I knew how an event such as this can make an amazing difference to someones wellbeing and how it is something really special to be involved in.

I am not a care leaver, I am in no position to speak for care leavers or to try and speak on behalf of something I have not experienced. A care leavers story is theirs, it is individual and it is not for me to claim or for me to try and put myself in their shoes to create my own narrative.

But the incredible human I met on the nightshift in Kos, who shared that breakfast, who supported me to find my own voice again and who helps to organise these incredible Christmas Dinner events with Lemn Sissay – she has her own care leavers story. A story which she has recently shared on BBC Radio and in her beautiful book Glue, which is why I know something she endorses this way is something to pay attention to.


Something which inspired me to write this today is the fact that yesterday was Black Friday. I watched people queue outside of stores to buy disposable products I am sure they did not really need just because there was a discount. I guess I just felt the need to balance this consumerist frenzy with a really truly good cause.

Maybe yesterday you bought a shirt and saved 20%, maybe you could pop that saving towards a Christmas dinner? Maybe you bought a new hoover and saved 50 quid, you could send some of those savings the way of a cause which will make a real difference. Maybe Black Friday makes you feel how it makes me feel and you didn’t buy anything but you were looking for a worthwhile cause to send some of your well earned pennies… well here it is!

The Christmas Dinner events funded by the Lemn Sissay Foundation take place on Christmas Day, not sometime around Christmas but on the big day itself which is what makes this so special. By donating you are sharing Christmas cheer on a day that for many can be a difficult and in many instances an incredibly lonely time.


Perhaps, this was a bit of a long post for something I could have just shared a link to on Facebook but it is something I care about deeply about and people I love care about. This is not just something you send a fiver to and never know if it actually did anything, this is real and you can see that your pennies become the kind of experience and memories that money can’t buy.

I urge you to please follow the links and find out more about this wonderful cause and support if you can, in any way.

To find out more, here is the link to their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/The-Christmas-Dinner-2017-Lemn-Sissay-Foundation-1023975684412350/?hc_ref=ARSOYlL43Uq0gMhtBPPZ7T3I0uoCPI5VSKC5SoqPw1PTfKRObc6zx0zLbNJ7UC5Rm5w&fref=nf


Here is a direct link to the Crowd Funder – http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-christmas-dinner-2017


And here is a link to the truly beautiful book, Glue, by the woman who continues to inspire me, Louise Wallwein – http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/954/glue 

Love x

Yet another Greek tragedy…

It has been over two years now since I first came to Greece. Before I jumped on that flight on Sept 29th 2015, with no idea how that decision would utterly change the direction of my life, I had been following the unfolding crisis in Greece for many months.

I don’t know what I expected to happen over all this time, but I had hoped that history wouldn’t continually repeat itself over and over again with no lessons being learnt and no real change.

Yesterday morning I woke up to news of another shipwreck in the region of Greece I now call home. I saw the messages of friends in my new home, the anger of yet another tragedy upon our doorstep. I saw the frantic grief of the volunteers on the island of Kalymnos who have dealt with too much death upon their shores already. I saw the pictures of the local rescue squad out searching for the missing and recovering the dead from the sea.

The thing that shocked me most about my own personal reaction to this, was that I checked the date and thought, “Yes, here we are again, it is shipwreck season.” This thought both disgusted me that I just accept this now as winter comes that these tragedies are expected and at the same time infuriated me that after all this time, nothing changes, this is just what happens.

One night in January 2016 I was sitting on the port of Kos with my nightshift buddies, as we did every night, surrounded in blankets and bags of jumpers, there just to try and do anything we could for new arrivals to Kos. It was the middle of the night when a friend, one of the calmest people I’ve ever known, received a phone call and began screaming, swearing and kicking at a wall. A few seconds later, another friends’ car screeched to a halt in front of us and she threw herself from the car in tears.

At this point I didn’t understand much Greek but I knew instantly what was happening. It was a shipwreck. I will never forget that night.

Next to the small island of Kalymnos, just beside Kos, a horrific tragedy unfolded that night. The local residents of this island found themselves watching lifeless bodies wash up on their shores, helpless to do anything but witness the horror of death flood their island. I don’t remember the exact number of deaths from that night, even one death is a death too many but I believe around 35 bodies were recovered and many others were never found. The Aegean has swallowed too many souls over these last years.

Yesterday, that same small island was dealing with another tragedy.

It reminded me one of the most difficult moments of my entire time here in Greece, I was in Kalymnos at a meeting with the local volunteers who respond to these tragic calls when one girl broke down in tears. She has been there the night of the Shipwreck last January and she was recalling the fact that there were no doctors there, and that some time after the tragedy, it had been discovered that there was a chance that some of those who had been presumed dead on the night, may not actually have been dead when they were put into body bags. Not that there was any definite proof, but some may have been saved if there had been a proper medical response to the emergency. For this, no one will ever know, but for me it just highlighted the fact that normal people were responding to emergencies that they should never have to face and without the resources to deal with such horrific circumstances.

I will never forget that cold January night. I will never forget that conversation. I will never forget the tragedies. I will never forget the faces of the survivors of these wrecks. I will never forget the personal sacrifices and the incredible strength of the locals of these islands. I will never forget the phone call I received from a friend as she searched through bags for ID to try to help the police identify the dead of another wreck. I will never forget that empty boat on my first night in Greece.

Some things about the situation in Greece may have changed, but the dangers have not.

I am not my job, I am not my nationality, I am not my beliefs… all I am is human and as a human, I cannot bear to watch this endless cycle of death upon the shores of Greece. It is almost 3 years since the “refugee crisis” in Greece became headline news, and yet here we are, seeing the same things.

My thoughts and my love are with the victims and survivors of these tragic events.

I hope, one day, “shipwreck” will be a word we need never have to utter again.


When I came home from work this evening, I started the usual newsfeed scroll to catch up on any news of the day. I moved house today and started a new job so I hadn’t checked in on any social media, so when I saw my newsfeed was filled with the majority of my female friends posting two words – “me too,” I was wondering what on earth I’d missed.

Then I saw a post explaining the relevance of these two words.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

When I understood, I physically felt my heart sink.


There has been so much discussion in recent days about sexual harassment after the Harvey Weinstein atrocities came to light and I have felt myself wanting to write something but I just couldn’t find the words.

The world is acting like these acts are not something that too many women are all too familiar with. Sadly, this man, will remind many of us of the man, or men of our past.

These news stories will remind us of that man who whispered inappropriate words in our ear. The man who catcalled us in the street. The man who tried to put his hand up our skirt in a bar. The man who threatened our careers, our relationships, if we did not do him a “favour.” The man who would not take no for an answer. The man who left us bruised and ashamed, but we were told it was ok because “he just gets like that when he is drunk.’

I do not mean to generalize a gender, I have some incredible, wonderful men in my life. But, there are also men out there who we are all starting to find the strength to expose.

I got so angry earlier this week when reading comments about how the girls who Harvey Weinstein assaulted in the first years were to blame for the later assaults.

I don’t know if you’ve ever known anyone who has tried to prove a sexual assault or rape, but there a million reasons why women do not come forward. Aside from the trauma, the shame, the myriad of “what if” thoughts spinning around their mind, there is so much at risk for a woman. Whether it be a career, friendships, relationships, family judgement, religious or cultural consequences – whatever the reason a woman feels like she cannot come forward, the woman can never be to blame for the future actions of a man.

If women felt they could come forward, that they would be believed, rather than being asked what they were wearing, how much they’d had to drink or how many men they’d had sex with – perhaps, yes, women coming forward could stop these actions from escalating. But they are not to blame when they do not come forward. The perpetrator is to blame. The system that stops women coming forward is it blame.


I am so proud of every one of my friends who I saw post those two words today. It may not seem like a big deal but to admit something like that to world, when sometimes it is hard enough to admit to even to yourself, it really is a big deal.


I hope that all women out there who have been hurt, find some comfort in this movement that shows that you are not alone. Of course, this solidarity cannot take away the pain of whatever has been experienced but I hope that it provides an opportunity for the world to understand that Harvey Weinstein is indeed just the tip of the iceberg, and not just in the entertainment industry.

We need to talk about this.

And for the record, yes, me too.

28th September 2015

September 28th 2015, the last day of my “old” life.

Throughout your life, there are moments that define you. Decisions which will change your path, your direction, and sometimes to an extent who you are as a person. Some of these moments involve a big decision, options that are presented to you which will make great changes to your future so you spend days, weeks, months, weighing all the pros and cons before making that big life changing decision.

But sometimes, these momentous milestones, just happen. Sometimes, the biggest shifts in your life happen by accident, without deep thought and consideration, but the impact on who you are and the life you lead is incredible.

Two years ago today I was on the brink of one of these life changing moments, but I had no idea.

On September 28th 2015, I could not for a moment have predicted where I find myself now.

On 29th September 2015 I arrived on the Greek island of Kos, following a rather spontaneous decision to join the movement of volunteers on the island supporting refugees. I had packed two suitcases full of items from the needs lists posted by local volunteers and just showed up ready and willing to do what I could.

That first night I was with a small group who found an empty boat wash up by the port, the bodies of a mother and her two young children were found in the water a few hours later.

When I arrived in Kos, I arrived with the knowledge of the situation I was walking into, but the reality was something completely different.

The incredible juxtaposition which met me in Kos was a reality I could not have fathomed had I not seen it in front of my eyes. By night, hundreds of wet, hungry, traumatised people climbed out of flimsy little plastic boats onto the shores of Kos, having paid 1000-2000 Euro, sometimes more, to cross the 6km sea from the Turkish coast. Too many boats left the shores of Bodrum and never made it to Kos, so many souls lost in the dark water of the night. Yet, by day, the shores were filled with happy tourists sunning themselves, many planning day trips to Bodrum on one of the many tourist boats, which would cost them between 15-50 Euro, would take no longer than an hour to cross and where they could enjoy the sunny sights whilst sipping a drink on the deck.

The streets lined with tents, the wet families waiting for a blanket, the survivors of the shipwrecks, the dead of the shipwrecks, the faces of those fleeing from a reality I could not even begin to imagine – the humans behind the headlines will stay with me forever.

What will also never leave me is the solidarity of the human spirit I witnessed on these shores. The people of all nations, religions, backgrounds, coming together to treat fellow humans with dignity in their time of need.

I originally intended to come to Greece for a week, my best friends wedding was a fortnight after I traveled to Kos and I had every intention of attending. But, I did not make it to the wedding, or to a number of weddings following this, or birthdays, christenings, general celebrations. Somehow one week turned into two years. Two years.

To put this in a personal perspective I have never done anything for two years running since I left high school. I like to move around, change my scenery, change perspective. Even my degree I managed to do each year in a different school in a different place. So two years in Greece is really quite an accomplishment, to stay still for so long. The crazy part is it came so naturally , I didn’t even notice, and I have no plans to move on.

From first finding this island in great darkness, I managed to find so much light here and somehow I fell in love with my Greek life.

You hear often of the fascism in Greece, the negativity and racism, which yes, I will not deny it exists as it definitely exists but this can be found rising almost everywhere right now. The true Greece and Greek culture is as beautiful as it’s scenery.

I spent my first year here as volunteer, mostly living a nocturnal life, spending my nights waiting in the darkness for new arrivals and wishing every moment for safe passage for those risking their lives in the crossing. The last year my life was a little different but still connected to the reasons I first came to Kos.

To be honest, over time things never got better for those coming to Greece in rubber dinghys, yet they still come. They still dream of a better future. A safer future. In many cases, simply a future.

I have been thinking so much in the last days about how these two years have changed me as a person. How the people I have met have influenced me. What I have learnt, what I have gained, what I have lost.

But, although I think it is very important to be self aware and it is important to reflect on these last years, I think it is also important to have some perspective.

I came to Greece two years ago on a flight, with my British passport, leaving my cosy British home and family behind where they kept on living their normal daily lives. I can jump on a plane at any point and visit my loved ones. I can still go to my favourite places. My “old” life, physically, is all still there.

The people I have met here over the last two years, fleeing from war, from persecution, have nothing of this luxury. They did not choose to leave their homes. For many, their homes no longer stand. For many, their families are no longer alive.

They have left behind memories of pain to start a new life in a new land where they do not know the language, the culture. They live camps or in tents, some in detention, for months, years not knowing what will happen next, where they will end up.

The most profound thing about this entire experience of living in Greece during this time is my new understanding of resilience. The absolute strength that people have in the most difficult times. How people survive, how they thrive.

Greeks opened their homes, opened their hearts to strangers in need, at a time when they found themselves amid crisis after crisis after crisis. The situation in Greece is far, far from perfect but if you look hard enough, you will find the movements, the inspiring individuals who give you hope in a world that gets darker every day.

I am still the same girl I was on 28th September 2015, but I definitely do not see the world in the same way. I do not see my place in this world in the same way. I do not see humanity in the same way.

To everyone I have met over these last two years, who laughed with me, cried with me, taught me their language, showed me their love – you changed a crazy little redheads life and I will forever be grateful and thankful that our paths crossed.


From Scotland (via Greece) With Love

Peace x

T’estimo Catalunya… A love letter from a Scot in Greece

It was September 11th 2012, we stood together in the centre of Placa Catalunya, strangers who had only met 24 hours before.

Your children took my hands, welcoming me as part of the family on our big city day out.

Each took turn of tying their flag around their shoulders,  a red and yellow cape with its independent star.

“I, Inde, Independencia!” the crowd cheered.

I had never been to Barcelona before and I found myself sharing the city streets with over 2 million others that day. All wearing their capes. All flying their flags high.

Drums were pounded, songs were sung. People laughed and danced and chanted. We marched, a sightseeing tour like I could never imagine.

When the little feet couldn’t march anymore we huddled in a doorway to watch the rest of the procession. The streets were packed with people – protesting? The word protest, as I understood it, didn’t fit here.

Babies, kids, mamas, papas, grannies, grandpas.

You told me the story of Catalonia that day. I never forgot it.

We went home to our quiet little seaside town, the sleepy superheroes still caped in their flags napping all the way.

As time went on I began to notice the every day little injustices.

I remember when we protested outside the town hall when they tried to stop the children learning Catalan in school. The older generation could still remember when they were not allowed to speak their native tongue.

I learned to always say, “moltes gracies,” instead of “muchas gracias.” As a foreigner, speaking Catalan made more people smile.

I went to school, I learned Catalan. Yes, I was the only one in those classes who could not speak Spanish. I am likely still the only Scottish girl who speaks Catalan but not Spanish, guess it says a lot about my politics.

I left my happy Catalan home with a different view of Spain.

I may have left Catalonia, but I never left my Catalan family.

We joked about who would have their own passport first, a Scottish or a Catalan. I always told you the Catalans deserved it first.

We grieved together after the Scottish referendum. I knew how much it would have meant to Catalonia if it had gone the other way.

Spain told you a referendum was illegal, but you did it anyway on the 9th November 2014. It may not have been legally binding but we were there that day at 6am to make sure the police didn’t stop the vote from taking place.

The votes may not have counted but I saw what it meant when people dropped their papers in the box. I saw the elderly lady crying. I saw the couples with their children imagining a future free from the restraints of Spanish rule.

After my Catalan life, I spent my time with those fleeing war. Those victimized by their religion, their nationality, their ethnicity.

My Catalan babies made a stall and sold their old toys to send me money to make more sandwiches for refugees.

I saw persecution on a greater scale, from a different perspective.

I see the actions of Spain and I begin to draw comparisons in a situation I never believed held any comparisons.

I remember the sign above the river in Girona, “Catalans want to vote.”

This week the National Theatre of Catalunya released a statement that their board members had been imprisoned because they supported a referendum.

Comparisons are consistently drawn between the Scottish referendum and the Catalan independence movement. What happened in Scotland cannot be compared.

Catalans want to vote – but legally they cannot.


A friend once told me, “The people of Catalonia are like the sand on their beaches. The sand here sticks to you and you will keep finding those little grains throughout your life, where you least expect it, like the people, no matter where you go, they will always be with you.”


The Catalan spirit never left me, Catalonia is a home to me, Catalans are my family.

The people of Catalonia deserve to have a say in their future.

Even if independence is not the result, the people of the region should have a voice and a vote.

Catalunya, I am with you.





I could write a more academic explanation of why Catalans should have the right to vote for independence, referencing their history, politics, economics but what the Catalans showed me most was love, and this is why I choose to share this story of love in return.

Dear American Tourist Gentleman…

Setting – Breakfast Bar, Greek Island Hotel. Male American Tourist and Female Greek Waitress.

“I see you here all the time, do you work all morning?”

“Yes, I work all day, morning to night.”

“Really, I thought you said you had children?”

“Yes, I do.”

“So what do you do with them if you are always here? When do the kiddos ever see Mama? You know, children need their mothers.”


Dear American Tourist Gentleman,

I hope you are enjoying your vacation on an idyllic Greek island. I hope you are enjoying the sun and sea and that you are experiencing the incredible hospitality of the Greek culture. But in the beautifully constructed tourism bubble that the locals of these islands do everything in their power to preserve, you may have missed the reality for the every day Greek citizen.

These islands are particularly talented at making sure the veil of perfection never slips so it is understandable you wouldn’t know the real Greece. I mean we still have refugees arriving on our beaches – which you will likely never see as they are hidden away as soon as possible. We have earthquakes which within 24 hours we will ship the dead and injured away, clean up the streets and make videos about how perfect life is so you need never know anything ever happened. Oh and then there was just that little thing of the Greek financial crisis, but that’s old news, it doesn’t still affect everyone in their day to day lives – except it absolutely does.

So here’s an interesting statistic, the current Greek unemployment rate is 22.5% of the population. The highest in Europe, double the European average. I am British and I saw the effect of unemployment in the communities I lived in there, but on investigation the UK unemployment rate is 4.1%, so compare that.

And it’s not just unemployment, it is working conditions. Yes, the waitress will work long hours and probably for a very low wage, and she will do it to support those children you mention. Last year before tourist season I was looking for a job and was offered one in a similar role to the waitress you were so incredibly rude to this morning.

The working hours were 10 hours per day, 7 days a week for, wait for it, 650 Euro a month salary. Let’s work that out, 70 hour working week, resulting in a 2.32 hourly rate. Perhaps while you’ve been here you’ve popped into a supermarket and you will see how little 2.32 will get you in Greece. Even the “cheap” supermarkets like Lidl are almost twice as expensive as they are in my hometown in Scotland.

To note, this is not the wage everyone working in hospitality will earn in Greece, but in large it is very representative of the industry here. I personally applied for a number of jobs with the best wage being 3.50 per hour of them all. To add, the tourism industry only has 6 months of business a year, the rest of the year these islands have very few employment opportunities in the empty winter streets.

But your lack of understanding of Greek finances is not what made me fill with rage upon hearing your conversation this morning. No, the rage was ignited by one single fact. No man, should ever reprimand a woman by suggesting she is not spending enough time with her children in order for her to make a living.

You may not have noticed that she may have kept her smile fixed during your conversation but the minute she turned around that smile instantly slipped after a complete stranger judged her on her parenting abilities. I would say that in Greek culture this could been as particularly hurtful, but I believe this extends to every woman in all cultures I have ever experienced.

I was raised by a single working mother and at no point in my adult life have I ever looked back and thought, “But why didn’t I see my mum every minute of the day?” In fact, I look back and think that my mother was a superhero for facing the challenges she did and keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table whilst raising us to be respectful, independent and kind humans.

Your ignorance and brash attitude may have touched a nerve with me personally but it is nothing compared to how you made this woman feel this morning. I saw her face as she walked away, and I saw your face, as if nothing had just happened as you shoveled another sausage in your mouth.

Greece depends on tourism, yes, it is people like you that keep people employed, that bring these places back from the brink of the crisis. But that gives you no right to be that patronising, judgmental human you were this morning.

I live a strange kind of life as Scot in Greece, something between a tourist and a local. I see the benefits of tourism and I see and meet tourists from all over the world who are nothing like you. People who come to Greece and respect the culture, who respect the people. Maybe in future you could be a little more like them?

But, let’s be honest, this is not about tourists and locals, this is about men and women.

So when you have finished getting the perfect lobster shade skin upon the beautiful beaches and you head back to the US of A, maybe you should treat the women of your own culture with a little more respect too. How would you feel if someone said that to your wife? Or maybe you would say that to your own wife, who knows.

In conclusion, Mr rude American tourist man, I saw you make a Greek woman really sad this morning and in turn you made me very sad.

Women are more than mothers, and mothers are women who deserve your respect not your judgement.

Yours Sincerely,

The girl with the skin turning the same colour red as her hair – and not from sunburn.


To all the Mamas out there, I respect you.

To the Mamas who choose to stay at home to raise their babies, I respect you. To the Mamas who choose to go out and work whilst raising their babies, I respect you. To the Mamas who wish they could stay at home and raise their babies but have to work to support their families, I respect you. Whatever your choice or your situation, you know it better than anyone else and you need never justify it to anyone. You are all incredible human beings, never let anyone make you feel you are anything short of heroic for all that you do for your tiny humans!