Image by Julie Sanford

As a daughter and a mother to sons, this article is difficult to write. I do not wish to label all men as threats to women. However, it goes without saying that the freedom afforded to my sons is not extended to my daughters. At fourteen and sixteen, they have both already been exposed to inappropriate sexualised behaviour, as I had before them and my mother before me. Recent research suggests as many as 97% of women have experienced inappropriate sexual interaction. This can happen anytime anywhere. Pubs and clubs come with their pitfalls. As women, there is an unwritten code that if we feel a man is zoning in on a friend, we work together as a collective to keep that person out of their reach. Like a carefully orchestrated dance routine where the intended victim becomes encased inside our circle.  Unfortunately, this is not restricted to 18+ venues, the threat stretches far and wide. It can occur on buses, in parks, classrooms, and homes. This problem is not a problem for women but females, regardless of age. Often a younger girl is a more desired victim. Hence why I will not allow my daughters to walk home alone after dark. A school uniform is almost like a red flag to some men. I use the term men loosely. These are not men but sex pests and perverts disguised as men. People who feel that young girls are there to be intimidated for their pleasure. This is not a new problem, it is age-old and I do not know how to fix it. Perhaps talking about it is the answer. Making every son, father, nephew, or husband aware that their female relatives are intimidated and scared in certain situations, this is not a fear built on fairy tales but one brought on by experience. Their mother, sister, daughter, and wife have been exposed and subjected to disturbing behaviour. If these women are lucky it may have just been an inappropriate comment, the lesser of the potential evils. But others are not so lucky those such as Sarah Everard. A woman like many before her who took the journey home with fingers crossed hoping today was not the day. As females, we have a different set of rules which are dictated to us by the monsters and the perverts. Even the most headstrong and competent woman will feel fear when their personal space is intruded upon. This does not make her any less competent. It means that she has most likely learned from a previous experience. Women are not inherently afraid of men; it is a learned behaviour developed from exposure to abuse. As a society, it’s time to talk, to discuss the problem. Let the world know that we are survivors. Teach our children that the best way to stop a problem is to break the cycle. It’s not okay to intimidate anyone. It is not okay to touch anyone without their permission. It is not okay to hurt or harm anyone.  From the building sites to the classrooms, the wolf whistles to the revenge porn. The indecent exposer or groping, the rape and the murder. What if that was your daughter, mother or wife? The chances are it has been. 97% is a huge number, a true pandemic. The time for change is now.

By Julie Sanford

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.

Chance encounters

Image by Julie Sanford

Lockdown! Isolate! Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. But what about chance encounters, the moments that surprise and astound us? I asked a few people about their chance encounters that left a lasting impression. 

Kieran Murphy, 18, from Dagenham

Whist on a school trip to Brighton myself and my girlfriend were looking for an ATM. As we approached one, another couple was also heading that way. The ATM was faulty so we both turned and walked away. In passing, I noticed it was the YouTuber PewDiePie. I took the chance and asked if I could snap a photo with him. Another chance encounter was whilst I was in Camden this year. I was sitting people watching when Beabadoobee the singer walked past. I approached her and got a great photo.

Megan Murphy, 16, from Dagenham

Not quite a chance encounter, after doing some detective work on the internet I was able to track down the hotel that Shawn Mendes was staying in. After queuing for nine hours he walked around the corner. We had a meet and greet and a photo. Another time whilst at the ice rink in Romford, I saw Joe Swash practicing for dancing on ice. We spoke to him and he was really nice.

Diane Sanford, 57, from Canvey

Just walking down the road going to the shop and who do you bump into? Glenda Jackson. At this stage, she was an MP as well as a famous actress. So I said hello and had a chat with her. In 1967, my dad’s friend was a chauffeur, he used to chauffeur people about. Where we lived was an old Dickinson pub called The Bunch of Grapes. It was in Narrow Street. It was a popular pub for the rich and famous. Frank Sinatra was working on a film in London. My mum was a big fan. My dad came to collect her but because she had just had a baby she couldn’t go. Instead, me and my elder sisters went down to meet him. He said I was a pretty little girl and he signed our record.

Terry Slattery, 40, from Dagenham

I won tickets to go and see Ocean Colour Scene. Me and my cousin went to a pub close by and Paul Weller was sitting having a drink with a woman. I didn’t want to disturb him so I tried to discreetly take a picture, after all, it was Paul Weller. The woman he was with didn’t take too kindly to it. Fortunately, Paul Weller was more understanding.  On another occasion, I was at Westham and Russel Brand was there. He was talking to someone and asked their son if he wanted a picture with him. He said “Nah, I’m alright thanks” I must admit that tickled me.

Graham Fox, from London.

I once met Larry Lamb during a charity abseil at the Royal London Hospital. He was a thoroughly lovely bloke.

Sarah Fraser, from Barking

I once met Princess Diana at the Royal College of Surgeons, I loved her.

Donna Cavengher, from Dagenham

I once met Chris Evans when in London when I was fifteen, for some reason I had the same ginger hair like him. Thanks to my mum for doing that.

Bridgett Powel, from Gray’s

I once met Simon Cowell at Harrods. He was really friendly and I got a picture with him.

Helen Murphy, from Romford

I met Jill Dado once. She was answering calls at the BT tower for Children In Need. She was a beautiful goddess, a natural beauty, and even lovelier in real life.

Leanne Lapslie

I met Phillip Schofield once, before his This Morning days. He was opening a local shopping centre. I also met David Ginola at a party after Ascot. I was a little worse for wear.

Chance encounters range from the above stories, an accidental celebrity meeting right up to meeting your future partner or a lifelong friend. Fingers crossed they resume soon. When they do, embrace the random and surprising. Store them in your memory bank and like Diane, you may acquire an antidote to tell your children and grandchildren.

By Julie Sanford

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.

When your body attacks!

Image by pixel

Sitting in the living room, a stitch in my ribs is forcing me to wiggle in my chair hoping to find comfort. 

“I need a subject matter to write an article about!”

I pondered aloud. As is often the case in my house, unless I am offering food or money, I am ignored. Shifting in my seat, the stitch bit at my chest. 


I declared.

“Why does this happen?” 

Then, as if by magic, my Judas stitch become the solution to my quandary. 

Why does your body work against you? Why are stitches, cramps as well as Hiccups and pins and needles a thing? Have you ever wondered? Well, wonder no more, read on, and together we can delve into the reasons our body attacks. (said in the same foreboding tone as: when sharks attack)

Let’s start with pins and needles. Known officially as Paraesthesia. We have all been there, right? Kneeling, sitting on our hunches, engaged in one activity or another, only to stand up and find our foot is dead. No sensation the prelude to what is to come. Next follows the almost unbearable pins and needles. As the name suggests, a sensation like a million pins being stuck in your feet. So, what causes this torture? Put simply, it’s when the blood supply to your limbs is cut off. The sensation whilst intense should only last a short while. It’s normal to get pins and needles in arms, legs, hands and feet. 

Moving on, another common and perhaps even more painful deceit our body likes to sideswipe us with, often without warning is Cramp. Like Ninjas, they sneak up causing pain and spasms when we least expect it. “They can happen at any time, but most people have them at night or when resting” (www.nhs.uk). Cramp is caused when the muscles spasm, causing them to shorten and become tight. A cramp can hurt, like really, really hurt! Worst of all, it can last anything from seconds up to ten minutes. After a bout of Cramp, it’s not uncommon for the affected muscle to feel tender and bruised for up to twenty-four hours after the attack. As with pins and needles, they can occur in hands, feet and legs. A recent addition to my Cramp repertoire is hip cramp! I kid you not, thank you middle age, you are the gift that keeps on giving. 

Next, thankfully not painful but annoying all the same: Hiccups also know as Synchronous diaphragmatic flutter or Singultus. There is no definitive cause of Hiccups but it’s believed that you can attribute strong emotions, stress or eating and drinking. I find a spicy chilli sends me into a bout of Hiccups quickly. They are caused by an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. As the muscle contracts, the vocal cords are forced closed causing the signature hic sound. There are a ton of “remedies” for Hiccups however I am yet to find a cure. Some potential solutions are breathing into a paper bag, sipping cold water and biting or sipping something acidic such as lemon or vinegar. One of my favourites, which for years I practiced without success, is to hold your wrist as well as your breath and count to twenty. Ultimately, they will go on their own. 

Now, here we are back where we started: What causes a stitch? Precordial catch syndrome or Texidor’s twitch is a non-serious condition that feels like a sharp stabbing pain in the chest area, it can also occur at the side of the ribs, often occurring during exercise, and especially while running. This is a painful occurrence that can be made to feel worse with deep breaths or movement. As with all of the above-mentioned conditions they ease over time but can be extremely painful. It’s important to note that continued chest pain must not be ignored but a stitch is a harmless incident caused by nerves getting pinched or irritated in the chest wall.

There you have it, as I was saying, I need a subject matter for my next article. Hopefully, this is it. Most information for this article was sourced from NHS direct online. I hope you found it interesting, maybe next time you are suffering from a bout of Singultus, you will remember this article as you reach for the lemons. 

By Julie Sanford

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.

Irrational fear.

Image by Pexels

Fear, such a small word but with huge effects. Fear of the unknown, fear of the dark, fear of failure. The verb translates as to be afraid of someone or something as likely to be dangerous, painful, or harmful. But what about the unfounded fears? The untypical fears. Some people are afraid of tomato sauce, for example, others find their hearts racing at the sight of cotton wool. Harmless objects that seem neither painful, harmful, or dangerous. Do you ever wonder why some fears are so ingrained, what historical event was so traumatic that your body has now created a physical alarm system that triggers your flight response?

Take me for example: To coin a phrase, I consider myself to be a “double hard bastard”; I tackle spiders like a boss. I don’t even need a cup, I just pick them up and put them outside as gently and kindly as I can. If it’s raining I might even let them stay a while longer. Rats? I laugh in the face of rats. Well, not quite, I actually like to kiss their little twitching noses. I have kept pet rats and love the feel of their rough-textured tail between my lip (a dangerous pass time as they share an equal appreciation, except it triggers them to wee). Snakes? Whilst I don’t want to have one as a pet, I hold no fear of them.

So here I am strolling through life with no apparent fear, like a superhero. Except I do have a fear. I have my very own kryptonite. Worst of all, I have no grounds for it. I have no idea why or how I came to be afraid, but I am. I mean full on goosebumps, shallow breath, heart-racing fear. I am putting it out there and fessing up. I am a naviphobe (from the Latin for ship) a fear of boats and cruise ships. I am equally afraid of those in dry dock of water. Okay, I hear you say, but as fears go, it’s a rare one. I mean, you are not often faced with a ship, right? Except I attend the University of Greenwich. After McDonald’s the next thing you see on leaving the station is…that’s right, the Cutty Sark! A big bastard ship flaunting itself in front of me like a cruel taunt saved especially for me. Unfounded, I know, but terrifying all the same. I have no idea why this became my fear, I have no childhood memories of being by a boat whilst feeling unwell for example. No recollection of a horror film, where a ship crushed a small family of puppies. Seemingly completely random. My question is what are you afraid of? And more importantly, do you know why? 

By Julie Sanford

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.

Boris, I take your Covid and raise you a Fluffle

Image by Julie Sanford

Here we are again no doubt on the cusp of another Boris announcement. An assumption but a fair one, if nothing else 2020 has been consistently inconsistent, yet always at the helm of the confusion is Boris. Let’s talk about some of the words that have become more fluent this year. Brexit was pushed aside to allow for Lockdown, isolation, anti-maskers, Covid, Corona and phrases like Eat-Out-To-Help-Out, Stay alert-Control the virus-Save lives. You may assume this is a political post but far from it. In fact, it is a rather extravagant lead to introduce you to a newfound favourite word of mine.  That word is Fluffle. How does that sound? Fluffle. Of course, it could mean a fight, a soft sort of scuffle, a really fluffy and cozy duffle. But no, it’s better than that. A Fluffle is a collection of baby kits. Or bunnies, as they are known in our house. I have recently had the pleasure of experiencing some Fluffles after being chucked headfirst into being an inexperienced but willing bunny nan.

Allow me to set the scene. April is one of my son’s birthday, he asked for a hamster, my twisted logic resulted in him getting rabbits. Some small research on my part said that rabbits are best kept in pairs. The breeder only had a boy and a girl left, both from a different lineage, so the need to neuter them was not urgent. Off I went cloak and dagger during the first lockdown to be handed two kits at the door. A beautiful all black mini lop doe and a white blue-eyed buck. Now, my son is not so inventive with names, previous pets/teddies have been named Michael Rabbit and Michael Rat Slattery. For his rabbits, he had decided to forgo the Michael and instead wanted to call them Rabbit one and Rabbit two. Fortunately, whilst unable to convince him his name choice was rubbish, we were able to throw in a few that were more appealing. He eventually settled on Batwoman and Yeti.

Batwoman and Yeti are very loved and have lots of runs in the garden whilst we sit with them guarding them against the neighbor’s cats. They came to us during lockdown one, so I often sat with them basking in the summer sun whilst the children wreaked havoc indoors. I enjoyed watching them interact, their cute jumps of excitement when they were let to roam free. With a search engine beside me, I was able to become quite the rabbit expert. Did you know that rabbits have a similar function to a purr? They grind their teeth together when happy. If a rabbit trusts you enough to purr when you are holding them, that’s true love. If they lick you, it’s a sign of trust. Stamp their foot, however? They are not very happy with you. As we watched our rabbits grow the chance they would produce a litter was always on our minds. We watched for all the textbook signs that she was pregnant.  For months we checked their cage expectantly but no babies appeared. Further research suggested that Yeti just wasn’t doing it for her, she just didn’t fancy him. Poor Yeti with his pure white fur and striking blue eyes akin to a rabbit Paul Hollywood, I could only assume his personality wasn’t up to scratch or his personal hygiene was failing.

Our bunny watch was interrupted in late September as our beloved pet dog Leon become very unwell and with great sadness, we had to have him put to sleep on the 29th of September. He was and always will be my good boy and is greatly missed. With swollen eyes and a heavy heart, I tended to the rabbits the morning of Leon’s death and was surprised to find Batwoman had made a nest! Tentatively putting my hand into the nest made entirely of her fur I felt a warm collection of wiggles. Parting the fur I was greeted with four bald squirmy baby rabbits. The circle of life completed. We had our kits. Now for any potential rabbit parents, it’s important to note that once the kits are delivered, the rabbits will happily mate again on the day of birth. Mine did and although I raced Yeti off to be nurtured before the week had passed, Batwoman was expecting again. Which was lucky for us as I had already promised babies to other people and with only four it would mean parting would be hard as we wouldn’t be able to keep any for ourselves. Her second litter was born thirty-two days after the last. The vet advised removing the older kits at this point as they could put too much stress on mum and she could kill one or both litters. It sounds harsh but at this point, they are weaned, eyes are open, ears are up, and they are running around, in the wild they would likely have already left the nest. And so we came to having four delightful baby rabbits living with us inside. Free-roaming when their parents came inside to visit. They were used to being handled so it was often common to sit with a Fluffle of rabbits on our lap. A wonderful heart-warming experience I would highly recommend.

My husband who is a sixteen stone tattooed electrician sat opposite me fresh from the building site a fluffle on his lap, not long before the first lot was due to be rehomed. He looked at me and said through gritted teeth: “How can you get rid of these cute little pricks?” A Fluffle you see is a leveller, they should be used to unite all men.  Wars? What wars? Here, hold this baby rabbit.

I hope you enjoyed learning about my Fluffle as much as I have enjoyed raising them. They are notoriously fluffy and wiggly so picture taking isn’t easy. I have attached our recent and likely last Fluffle of seven, I hope my photography has done them justice, by portraying the warm cosy feeling only a Fluffle can create.

By Julie Sanford

First year mature student of English language and literature. Full time mum to a brood of seven. Accidental author of three psychological thrillers and two short stories.

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.

Green hair and Vans – What it means to be a mature student at university

Photo by Julie Sanford

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that taking the leap and going to university is pretty daunting. The unknown, the constant doubts: Am I good enough? Will I settle in? Will I make friends? Now ask yourself the same questions but imagine you are a forty-year-old woman. I will give you a moment to process that as some of you may be so fresh out the womb that forty seems like a literal lifetime away. Others of you may be struggling with the woman part, but that’s a discussion for another day. 

Did you think about it? The age thing makes a difference, right? How can a forty-year-old woman justify actively trying to befriend teenagers? As a mum to teenagers, I am certain that my children would consider such actions plain embarrassing. How do I start befriending anyone when I am as old, if not older, than the majority of the tutors? This is when the doubts set in: Do I go the full hog, purchase a pair of Vans, learn to ride a skateboard, dye my hair, and try to blend in?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Julie, the midlife crisis I’m-so-cool-it-hurts-(literally when I fall off said skateboard)-cool mum. Because that’s all I can achieve with that look: An attempt to be a cool mum. I may be ancient but I can still recall the cool mums of my youth. They let multiple amounts of teenagers stay over whilst they went to the pub. They come home drunk and encourage everyone to do shots.

Cool mum ruled out; What are my other options? Keep myself to myself, go online, or to campus, do my lectures and leave? Except I can’t help but wanting to interact, I can’t help but start every conversation with: I have children your age. I know it’s condescending, I know it is not what you want to hear every time we break off into a meeting, but it’s all I have, guys. I need help. 

This is a learning process for all of us, this further education lark, an opportunity to grow mentally and emotionally, to be educated further and harder than we have ever before. I appreciate this opportunity but with it came something else. A shameful development has occurred on my part. I am becoming a Karen. I can’t help myself. A recent purchase of footsies and serious consideration about buying sketchers confirms it. So spare a thought for us oldies, the middle-age woman skating around campus with a green inverted bob and an overwhelming urge to speak to the manager. We are not okay. 

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.