The Creative Writing Laboratory!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Poetry, Writing Leave a Comment

What on earth is a ‘Creative Writing Laboratory’ and why should I try one?

A stormy grey sky with light breaking through the clouds.

Waking creativity!

Research has shown the incredible benefits of the arts on health; both mental and physical.  In the last couple of months alone I have come across new research providing greater scientific evidence of the powerful effects of expressive arts.  I heard, for instance, at the Culture, Health and Well Being Conference in Bristol this week, that changes occurring in the human genome, ‘turned on’ following severe trauma and resulting PTSD, are seen to be resolved ‘turned off’- through a holistic approach to healing that includes poetry and other forms of expressive writing. There has been measurement of cortisol changes in saliva to evidence stress reduction, heart rates and breathing have been monitored alongside ability to focus, levels of energy and more, much more, and all point to further evidence of how effective the creative arts can be as a tool for healing.

If only a GP could prescribe a course of poetry, a packet of short stories, a spray of salsa dances, a dose of fiction!

The idea for the Creative Writing Laboratory came from my experience of writing a novel about things that scared me and made me angry – and how the writing of it released me from feeling helpless and stuck. That novel was CULL  (more about that in next blog.)

White words on a dark blue background read keep calm and write on. My idea was to create a safe space for people to explore a multitude of creative writing techniques and find ones that they could employ that would also increase their feelings of well-being, of hopefulness and curiosity. In my Creative Writing Laboratory, everyone is a researcher, a lab technician, exploring their own process.

(Guide) Dog Lovers Should Not Vote Tory

Tanvir Naomi Bush Disability, Guide Dogs, Visual Impairment 2 Comments

Are you a dog lover?  Do you support Guide Dogs and other assistance dogs? Then this is why you should NOT vote Tory.

The snap election is nearly upon us. Some of you may even have your postal vote ready but if you are thinking about voting for the Conservative Party and call yourself a dog lover, I suggest you read this and reconsider your vote.

It is VERY simple.

Guide Dogs and other assistance dogs are trained to work alongside disabled people and people with chronic conditions like diabetes and epilepsy etc. Yes?

Well, are you aware of what is happening to disabled and vulnerable people under the current government? It’s bad. In fact it is VERY bad. Don’t take my word. Instead have a look at the UN report published last November which found evidence of “grave or systematic violations of rights of people with disabilities.”

Blue United Nations LogoThe UN report warned that cuts and changes to disability support under the Conservative-led government had “hindered disabled people’s right to live independently and be included in the community”.

Disabled people were also routinely portrayed as being “dependent or making a living out of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy or putting a burden on taxpayers”, the report found.

Other policies such as the bedroom tax and benefit sanctions had also disproportionately affected the disabled, while work schemes had “no visible impact” in helping disabled people find work and were sometimes counterproductive.

Should you choose to disregard that, as the government tried to, then there is the even more detailed and upsetting report from the Equality and Human Rights commission

The report, which covers six key areas of life, finds that disabled people in Britain are experiencing disadvantages in all of them, and sets out vital areas for urgent improvement. Despite significant progress in the laws protecting disabled people’s rights, they are still not being treated as equal citizens and continue to be denied the opportunities and outcomes non-disabled people take for granted.

So what has this got to do with dogs?

Grace Still In Da House

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Guide Dogs 2 Comments

A black labrador- retriever cross is sitting staring into the camera with bright warm brown eyes and a grin on her muzzle. next to her, looking a little more serious, stands a younger golden labrador. They are on a path in the middle of some woods. They look very happy.

Grace and Maisie, Grace’s young buddy,  ‘living it large’ Photo (c) L. Purling

For those of you who are asking about the wonderful hound…

Yup, Grace is still with me at the moment. The re-homing process is longer and more complex than I had originally thought. There were many wonderful people wanting to take her on and yet there are so many issues when it comes to re-homing an older guide dog that, in the end, we decided to hand all things over to the re-homing team. This means I can just pretend it isn’t happening for a wee bit longer.

Grace meantime has happily settled deep into her retirement and…well… gone ‘dog’.  In the old days of just a couple of months ago, I would wake up, feed us, get my sh** together, harness up Grace and head out the flat and up the hill. Boom! There, wherever ‘there’ happened to be that day,-and back again. Work? Done. Supermarket? Done. Gym? Done.  I had NO flippin’ idea just how much I had taken Grace for granted. Have you ANY idea how hard it is,  for any dog,  to walk sniff-less and in straight lines whilst hefting a talking monkey? Perhaps our equivalent would be being always prepped for a full triathlon whenever and where ever we got a text from our boss.  What now? But I am in the pub…awww..maaaan. Okay. As it’s YOU.

Two labradors, one yellow and one black, are heading away down a track in the middle of some beautiful green woods.

Seven years of sniffing to catch up on! Back laters! Photo (c) L. Purling

Now, Retired Grace is making all that painfully clear. She has seven and half yeas of sniffing to catch up on. If we can get 20 metres in 20 minutes it is a result.  She won’t get out of the car if she can’t see green fields and grass to run in and, should I convince her, with promises of fishy teats the size of a pillow,  to come into town with me at all, she is liable to lock legs,  pause and lick up any dropped ice cream, chips, bread crumbs in the street, looking up at me with Clint Eastwood glintiness and a grin on her chops that says,

‘Payback is, quite literally in this case, a bitch’.

Damn, I LOVE this dog!

On another note, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

I actually heard some Tory apologist on the radio this morning saying that their response to the financial cuts to care and services was not to put more money in. Oh no.  Money was Not Needed.  They would, however, ‘ensure there are more resources than any other party.’  What? Do you mean Tories would fund resources from the teary dreams of babies and the light from the eye of a unicorn?   Seems Trump-Speak is contagious.

Back in 2012 I came across an excellent piece of research by Kay Garthwrite called Fear of the Brown Envelope.   Only a few months before, I had nearly been evicted due to an administrative error by the DWP and was cringing every time the post came. I had gone to look after my Dad for a few weeks as he was very ill with multiple myeloma. He was in Zambia. I had sent my dates and passport details before I had left the country and when I returned but the DWP had ‘lost’ them.

You are still abroad and taking money off the state. You are sanctioned! the Brown Envelope screamed.

A Weekend of Dance with Touchdown Company.

Tanvir Naomi Bush Disability, photography, Visual Impairment, Writing Leave a Comment

Into the dance studio we go!

A sunny dance studio space. To the foreground a dancer in an orange t-shirt is on all fours whilst another dancer slies over their back. behind them another couple are doing the same exercise.

Excellent way to make friends! Photo T.Bush (c) 2017

My eyes are finding it hard to adjust to the dark shadows of the wide dance studio space interspersed with occasional dazzling pools of sunlight. I am, however, prepped and perky and I am wearing ‘gear’ for the unknown, i.e. doubled sports bra/ tank top combo (experience has shown it to be almost as effective and certainly less painful to remove than duct-tape), track suit bottoms and huge cotton knickers. (All ladeez understand why we don’t do anything thong or nylon when unsure about potential sweat levels.)

I am already nervous-sweaty. I can feel my underarms slickening. Please don’t make that farting noise when we do pirouettes, I beg them. This is my first dance workshop since those  Jesus Christ Superstar try outs in Zambia over  20 years ago. My armpits were younger then…

Change the Narrative with ‘I, Daniel Blake’

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Writing 2 Comments

It was a packed auditorium..

A middle aged man in a dark donkey jacket and black wool hat pulled low stands defiantly with fist raised. Behind him in various black and red texts are a list of accoldes for the film

‘I, Daniel Blake’ (2016) film poster

… for the first screening of the award winning film, ‘I Daniel Blake’ at the Pound Arts Centre, Corsham last Thursday.  We had planned a full day of events around the Arts and Social Change,  part of our joint SenseAbility themed programme.  It had been months in the planning but finally the day had arrived!

Notes on Leaving from Grace

Tanvir Naomi Bush Disability, Guide Dogs, Writing 11 Comments

The Leaving

A rugged coastal path on the South West Coast with a grey boulder on the right of the frame and a white fence post on a bank to the left. A black dog is running down the path towards the camera, ears flapping and dust flying. Big frin on her face!

The Leaving is Arriving!

Hey TanviLove, I should be blogging about ‘re-tyre-ing’ but I don’t really smell that concept.

Me: Okay, what do you want to talk about?

Can I explain the Leaving instead,  as we Guide Dogs go through and past and through it a few times a life-long.

Me: That sounds great. Go ahead and I’ll type.

Should we eat something first?

Me: You just had breakfast.

Did I? But I am faint with hunger.

Me: Hmmmm, look here is a treat. Now come on.  The Leaving…?

Amazing Grace and the End of an Era

Tanvir Naomi Bush Disability, Guide Dogs, Visual Impairment, Writing 8 Comments

Grace Hangs up Her Harness

A young black labrador retriever cross bitch sits in the middle of the frame wearing her bright yellow guide dog harness. She has a stern expression on her face. The photographer has used a lens that causes slight distortion around the edges the picture as if one is seeing the image doubled and blurred.

A youthful Grace at work, already with that stern expression of ‘for goodness sake, woman! What now?’

Grace has retired. Yes. It is officially the end of an era. As of last Thursday my wonderful buddy and fellow academic, my guide in the dark, my morning singing, fox poo rolling, clever, funny, huge hearted, rambunctious, co-traveller in this bonkers journey, has been retired. She has been at my side for seven and a half years, guiding me past the death of my Dad, across the county and through my MA and PhD.  She has helped me make friends, taught me so much about courage and dog-ness and inspired my writing. This, for both of us, is going to be a pretty tumultuous change.

Holey Vision!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Visual Impairment, Writing Leave a Comment

We are back!

Guide dog Grace, a black labrador, wearing blue graduation cap and cape, sits proudly in front of similarly attired Dr. Tanvir Bush and another female graduate. All three are smiling!

Drs Tanvir, Alice Herve and Grace

Hellooooo! Goodness, I have missed you and can only apologise for the wee gap …okay, the three-year wee gap… in my Holey Vision posts! I got sucked deep down into my PhD but am now safely out the other side. And, da da DAAA…! I am a Doctor Bush of Bath Spa University! I kid you not. Grace too has weathered the storm and, now 9 years old and a little greyer, is also the proud wearer of cap and gown. The photo was taken on our graduation day with fellow Doc, Alice Herve.

But three years is a long time…

Ruth Hartley’s Birthday

Tanvir Naomi Bush Poetry 4 Comments

Cheese, please!

Cheese tower of different cheese rounds mounting from large to small, to celebrate the birthday of Ruth Hartley, mother, artist and author.

Cheese!

My Mum is the artist and writer Ruth Hartley. Last week we threw her a 70th birthday party. That was because she turned 70…not because we were trying to freak her out.

My older sister baked cakes and made soups and dips and organised a tower of wonderful cheeses. There were old friends and new wines, speeches and thank yous and Silent John even sang her a song! A super do!

In which I am attacked by a speed boat and Grace plunges under a train

Tanvir Naomi Bush Disability, Guide Dogs, Visual Impairment 3 Comments

I loved Greece.. I really, really did. Only there was one ineey meeny mini bikini moment where it could all have gone a bit well ..I believe the expression is ‘tits up’.


We go on this boat to see turtles. We see a turtle. We pootle a bit further around the coast past beautiful coves and cliffs like this. A couple of times the boat stops and everyone jumps off to swim and snorkel. I don’t snorkel anymore but I too dive off the side into the warm, shimmering water and then clamber back up the boat’s ladder.